HOT OFF THE STOVE / notes, comments, observations and links about any and all things food related

 

By Larry Levine –

AUGUST 22, 2016 –
Great dining weekend just gone by: If there’s another place in California at which you can get an authentic, old-style Cesar salad made tableside, with all the anchovy paste and anchovies you want and a real, raw egg yolk, I don’t know where it is. Jennifer and I discovered de’ Medici Cucina Italiana in the Gaslamp area of San Diego some eight years ago. And Juan is a maestro when it comes to making a Cesar salad. We were there for dinner again this week the night before the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Racetrack. Then, after the races, it was dinner at the wonderful Vivace at the Hyatt Park Aviara Resort in Carlsbad. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=15

JULY 3, 2016 –
Two sad closings. The picturesque Ponti in Seattle has closed. It’s been a favorite of ours for many years. It was the place we dined with Ian and Christine Birrell, who soon after became the in-laws of our son John. After too short a time, Betsy Hite has closed the Slough House Inn just east of Sacramento. Our Sunday brunches there will not be forgotten. Betsy will be re-establishing her catering business in Sacramento.

JUNE 29, 2016 –
The second half of a whole roasted chicken has always been a problem for us. We each prefer the leg and thigh – dark meat – to the white meat of the breast. I can handle the white meat when the chicken is still hot from the oven. So, for the first night Jennifer gets a leg and thigh and I eat a half breast and a wing. It’s the second night that presents a problem. I find the breast dry and tasteless when it’s not hot and it dries out if I re-heat it. Tonight I took an old recipe and adapted it to the leftover half of the chicken I roasted two nights ago. The original recipe calls for chicken thighs and uses morel mushrooms. Tonight I used the leftover leg, thigh and breast half along with porcini mushrooms. Here’s the fundamental the recipe.

KITCHEN QUICKIES – Poached chicken thighs with morel mushroom sauce

JUNE 26, 2016 –
Lunch today at the taco truck on the I-5 at the Buttonwillow off ramp. The truck was first brought to my attention by the late Jim Tabilio as a recommendation at the restaurant recommendation web site atLarrys.com. I had the chili verde this time for the first time ever. In all previous stops I had tacos. This was a fabulous chili verde. Tender and moist pork. The sauce was great texture and nicely spiced. Very good beans and rice. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=44

MAY 8, 2016 –
Very good Mother’s Day brunch at the Sloughhouse in outside of Sacramento today with Jennifer, son Lloyd, daughter-in-law Edie, and granddaughters Alise and Carlie. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=284

MAY 7, 2016 –
I do get to eat well. Dinner tonight at Biba in Sacramento, CA. My favorite restaurant in the state. It was a pre-Mother’s Day celebration with Jennifer, son Lloyd and daughter-in-law. Something new for me. I ordered halibut in a restaurant for the first time ever and it was wonderful. Alaskan halibut cooked perfectly. There’s such a difference between cold water halibut and warm water halibut. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=14

MAY 5, 2016 –
So, where does a food writer-editor-publisher based in Los Angeles go for dinner to celebrate another trip around the sun. This year it was Spago in Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck’s first restaurant in its second location. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=256

APRIL 17, 2016 – 
Aaaah, Southern California on a warm Sunday morning. Breakfast on the sand at The Beach Café at Paradise Cove in Malibu, CA. Umbrellas for shade. The Channel Islands dancing on the horizon. A lone figure paddle boarding on the calm blue water. Tanned bodies sipping mimosas, eating big, thick waffles, fluffy omelets, apple pancakes, fruit bowls, guacamole … The air so clear we can see up and down the coast for miles. Ask me again why we live here.

APRIL 15, 2016 -|
I just got home from a two and one-half hour session at the sushi bar at Asanebo in Studio City, CA. I had hairy crab for the first time ever. It has the texture and taste of Dungeness Crab, but sweeter. These things are very pricey – $240 for a whole crab. I shared half a crab with a sushi-bar friend.
http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=17

APRIL 9, 2016 –
I love it when a restaurant I like is doing well. We were at Panzanella tonight to say good bye to Enzo, one of our favorite waiters. The place was packed – every table filled, people waiting to be seated, every seat at the bar filled, private parties in each of the two back rooms. After eight years at Panzanella, Enzo is moving on to live a dream. Next week he will become a daytime field reporter for the NBC-TV affiliate in Palm Springs. He’s been studying broadcasting and interning at a local station in L.A.

FEBRUARY 20, 2016 –
Chicken Jardiniere tonight at home for Jacques Pepin’s Heart and Soul in the Kitchen. It’s the best cookbook I’ve ever seen. Except for mine, which is not yet published.

JANUARY 30, 2016 –
“Soft opening” last night for friends and family at the new RailBridge Cellars restaurant in Sacramento. Michael Gelber hooked up with Ron Peskin at Brent’s Deli in Northridge CA and will be serving Brent’s pastrami on double baked rye bread at the new Sacramento restaurant.

JANUARY 6, 2016 –
We’re back. Seems someone hacked the administrative site for Table Talk atLarrys.com. I didn’t want to be posting much until I was certain everything was clean and secure and we wouldn’t be infecting any of our readers’ computers. Any way, all seems good now. The old year ended on an up note. I made a New Years Eve dinner of herb crusted rack of lamb and a chocolate soufflé. Our tradition is to stay home on New Years Eve and I cook a meal that Jennifer requests. The two recipes came from Jacques Pepin’s latest cookbook – Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, which quickly became my all time favorite cookbook. You can find a feature of it on this home page. 2016 got off to a very good start when we joined our friend Amanda and some of her friends for her birthday dinner at Twin Dragons Chinese Restaurant on Pico Boulevard.

OCTOBER 28, 2015 –
A few things to catch up after a long silence on this page: 1) Rocio’s Moles de los Dioses in Sun Valley CA is temporarily closed because of a fire. It apparently was arson and came after a series or break ins in the weeks before. 2) I had a two-hour sushi lunch at Kru in Sacramento CA with son Lloyd last week. It has to be one of the best sushi/sashimi restaurants in the state. 3) While in Sacramento last weekend for our granddaughter Alise’s five-year-old birthday party, we had another magnificent dinner at Biba.

AUGUST 4, 2015 –
We’re heading north on the I-5 again. This time headed for the Willamette Writers’ Conference in Portland OR. We stopped tonight in Willows CA for the express purpose of having dinner at Nancy’s Airport Café, where we have had lunch a number of times in the past. Here’s the atLarrys.com recommendation for Nancy’s. In the lobby there are old newspaper ads and clips about air shows featuring women pilots nearly 100 years ago.
http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=162

JULY 20, 2015 –
We are here in Issaquah, WA, 20 minutes southeast of Seattle, and by my judgment the best place in the U.S. for eating seafood. And here in Issaquah is the best seafood store in which I’ve ever shopped – Gemini Fish Market. Tonight it was absolutely fresh, never-been-frozen Alaskan black cod. I baked it with a little soy sauce drizzled on it. Served it with steamed new potatoes and carrots. While in the market I saw the most inviting pieces of sword fish I’ve ever seen. That will be for tomorrow night.

JULY 9, 2015 –
All is well at the “remodeled” Musso and Frank Grill in Hollywood. I was there for dinner last night and can report the character of the oldest restaurant in Hollywood has not been changed on iota. Only thing noticeable – new fixtures in the men’s room. Otherwise, same great food. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=65

JULY 2, 2015 –
Musso and Frank Grill – http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=65 – the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, CA, is closed this week for a remodel that sounds more light a refreshing. Re-opening is schedule July 7 at 5 p.m. The work includes new floors, bathrooms, chairs, fixing leather on booths. The new floor is antique French wood from France.

JUNE 13, 2015 –
The newly renovated, newly reopened Paragary’s in Sacramento CA is a home run. Jennifer and I had dinner there tonight. The new room is beautiful. The patio is inviting. And the food? Couldn’t ask for anything better. It will go up as an atLarrys.com recommendation in a day or two. http://www.paragarys.com/sacramento-restaurants/paragarys/

JUNE 7, 2015 –
Another wonderful dinner last night at the Charlie Chaplin table at Musso and Frank Grill, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, CA. Once again, I started with a perfect Perfect Manhattan. Then I moved to the still new preparation of marinated herrings. Jennifer stuck with our favorite liver and onions. I went off the reservation at had three perfectly cooked, delicious lamb chops. With our friends Edward and Susan Lacey. Here’s a link to read more about this classic restaurant. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=65

MAY 8, 2015 –
Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with the Los Angeles restaurant scene. I just learned tonight that Hatfield’s in Hollywood closed the end of December. I was at dinner at Asanebo when one of the other patrons told me about Hatfield’s. Too bad. It’s a blow to fine dining in L.A.. I loved the place. The food and the room were tops.

MAY 4, 2015 –
Learned today that Solley’s in Sherman Oaks will be closing June 6. Always said when an old standby goes away and this was a hot political hangout. But I never considered it a real deli. It was more of a good coffee shop with some mediocre deli items on the menu. I should have suspected this was coming when I ordered a lox sandwich a few weeks ago and the lox as clearly pre-sliced and packaged instead of the hand slice, but still only adequate, lox they had been serving. I’ll miss the chicken soup, the lox, eggs and onions and my favorite waitress, Barbara.

APRIL 24, 2015 –
A real winner of a dinner tonight at Connie and Ted’s in West Hollywood. You can’t get any closer to a real New England dinner without an airplane. Look for the recommendation at www.atLarrys.com – the restaurant recommendation web site.

MARCH 30, 2015 –
Tipping on Take Out – Yes, No, or Sort of? Here’s an interesting essay on the subject.http://priceonomics.com/should-you-tip-on-takeout/
I tip the same on take out as I do for full restaurant service – 20%. Why? Because restaurant workers are working people. Someone takes my order; someone prepares the food; someone brings it to me. Until we overturn the entire economic system and create economic justice for everyone, I feel we should be cognizant of the role that working/service industry people play in our lives.

MARCH 22, 2015 –
Something new on the menu at Kendall’s at the L.A. Music Center last night – 7-hour roasted pork with macerated prunes served on mashed potatoes with broccoli rabe. Also, a selection of 7 different types of oysters.

MARCH 16, 2015 –
I have never tasted a better piece of corned beef than the one I bought at Corti Brothers in Sacramento and cooked tonight for Lloyd, Edie, Jennifer and myself. Of course, I served it with cabbage and potatoes. It’s going to be difficult to order corned beef anywhere else.

MARCH 12, 2015 –
Things are getting tough at restaurants within walking distance of the Los Angeles Music Center on L.A. Opera nights. Both Kendall’s in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Patina at the Disney Hall are booked solid a week and a half in advance of a March 21 performance of Figaro.

JANUARY 24, 2015 –
The French Laundry in Yountville CA is closed for kitchen remodeling until about the end of June.

JANUARY 23, 2015 –
Dinner tonight at Chez Panisse in Berkeley CA. Alice Waters was on site. From our table I could watch the grill master tend the wood fire and turn out scores and scores of grilled quails. Always great to be at the birthplace of sustainable dining, where local sourcing was a way of life before it became popular.

JANUARY 7, 2015 –
A momentous day. A federal judge has tossed out the ban on foie gras in California. Within hours I got an email from Josiah Citron at Melisse in Santa Monica announcing foie gras would be back on the menu tonight. That can of imported foie gras is was gifted is no long contraband in my pantry.

JANUARY 3, 2015 –
Never saw Panzanella in Sherman Oaks CA as busy as it was tonight. Among those dining in addition to Jennifer and me were Hal Holbrook and Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller. (Panzanella – http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=16)

DECEMBER 14, 2014 –
I just learned QT Chicago Dogs on Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks CA closed two weeks ago. I headed over there for one of their excellent Chicago shaved beef sandwiches and found the place deserted. All the interior signs and photos are gone. I asked the clerk in the adjoining grocery store if the owner moved and he told me “no, he just shut down.”

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 –
Been away for a while because of computer problems. We return today to find this interesting study from Harvard University. Is the food really better when the diner and the chef can make eye contact, or is it just that the enhanced experience makes it seem better. https://gma.yahoo.com/harvard-finds-cooks-serve-better-food-see-diners-190213439–abc-news-lifestyle.html

OCTOBER 7, 2014 –
The historic Rainbow Room high above Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan has re-opened after five years. Complete renovated. Larger windows for better views. http://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/historic-rainbow-room-reopens-atop-nyc-skyline/ar-BB7PUMP

SEPTEMBER 6, 2014 –
COSTCO? Not your parent Costco. In the wine section of our local Costco I found a bottle of 2010 Chateau Haut-Brion Premier Grand Cru for $1,078.99. Also a 210mChateau Mouton Rothschild at $999.99. Good news: you don’t need to buy a six pack. They are available as individual bottles.

SEPTEMBER 2, 2014
KECHUP? We don’t got no stinkin’ ketsup. Florida restaurant latest to say “we don’t serve it and you can’t bring it in.” http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/09/01/mad-fresh-ketchup_n_5750026.html

AUGUST 16, 2014 –
I returned from a wonderful week of wine tasting and dining in the Sonoma County wine region to find issues brewing around the strawberry research and development program at University of California at Davis. The Sacramento Bee has this informative piece today: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/16/6632280/long-standing-marriage-goes-sour.html  I’ll be posting an article about the Sonoma week soon.

AUGUST 3, 2014 –
Panzanella in Sherman Oaks CA, my favorite of the Drago brothers family of restaurants, has renovated its menu. Gone are a couple of old favorites. But Massimo says I just need to ask for the pennette arabieta and it will appear before me. Some great new offerings have been added, including some new ravioli fillings.

JULY 28, 2014 –
Score another hit for the Studio City farmers’ market. Last week I was surprised to find some beautiful okra and made a chicken and sausage gumbo. Yesterday brought another surprise – fresh morel mushrooms, my favorites. Tonight I made chicken thighs poached in morel mushroom gravy with mashed potatoes. It’s one of my favorite personal original recipes.

JULY 21, 2014 –
Back from England a week and I decided to go to the Studio City farmers’ market yesterday. I found Freestone Peaches, which I haven’t seen in the markets for years. I ate the first one tonight and it was delicious. Super markets offer white peaches and yellow peaches. But Klings, Freestones and the other varieties haven’t been in the markets for years.

June 29, 2014 –
While my back was turned (we’re on vacation in England), three significant things happen back home: 1) the last restaurant of the Hamburger Hamlet chain closes; 2) Kate Mantillini in Beverly Hills closes but the one in Woodland Hills remains open; and 3) Governor Brown signs the repeal of the silly law that would have required food workers – even sushi chefs – to wear and constantly change gloves while working.

June 17, 2014  –
Special “provisions” dinner at Formoli in Sacramento last night with Jennifer, Lloyd and Edie. Five courses, price fixe. First four were fish – carp, trout, cat fish and sturgeon. The latter came with a dollop of stake tar tare. Excellent meal. I love Formoli’s cooking. First time I’ve ever enjoyed trout; could have eaten a plateful of that crisp skin. Also first time for cat fish. It was raised on a special diet so it didn’t have the dirt taste.

June 14, 2014 –
I had my first of the season Chesapeake Bay soft shell crabs last night at the Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco before a wonderful performance of Showboat at the War Memorial Opera House. I little late this year. Last year I had my first of the season soft shells at Chesapeake Bay during our visit in May. I’ll have to play catch up. Last night’s were preceded by a very nice Walla Walla onion soup that I will replicate at home.

June 13, 2014 –
Why did I do that? Dinner at Scoma at the Warf in San Francisco last night. The Dungeness crab was dry and stringy. I told the waiter. He said it’s because the crabs are from Oregon, not local. I asked why, since it’s crab season. He said because all the fishing boats are busy catching local king salmon. I tipped him anyway. Why did I do that? He should have told me the crabs were not local. So, he knew all the time the crabs weren’t any good but didn’t say anything. And crab boats and salmon boats aren’t the same. I should have stiffed him, but I didn’t. Why?

June 11, 2014 –
Remember National Eggs Benedict Day? Well, here’s another one – National Strawberry Shortcake Day. It’s Saturday, June 14. So, if you can find any strawberries that haven’t been manipulated for year-round growing sans flavor, have at it.

June 9, 2014 –
Wonderful celebration dinner for the high school graduation of our niece Cassidy last night. She is a pure treasure. And we were joined by her parents and two brothers at the Argyle Steakhouse at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad. I was told beforehand it is rated as one of the top 20 restaurants in San Diego. I hope that isn’t true. Or am I just not a steakhouse guy. But how can there be a flavorless rib eye? But that isn’t important. It was all about being their with Cassidy. So much love and warmth at that table. Congratulations, Cassidy.

May 3, 2014 –
Where does a food magazine publisher invite 28 friends and relatives to go for a birthday dinner? WP 24 – Wolfgang Puck’s place on the 24th Floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown L.A. That’s where we were for my 75th birthday.

May 1, 2014 –
I got the following email overnight from Jim at Gemini Seafood in Issaquah WA: “Hey, Larry- Just wanted to give you a heads up.  Louvar flying in tomorrow.  25lbs…not a lot.  Just wanted to give you a chance to book a flight before the email goes out tomorrow. Jim” I had to tell him I couldn’t get there because it’s my birthday weekend and there’s a big dinner party scheduled. I’ve never tasted louvar. But my son John and his family have. They live about a mile from Gemini. Want to know more about louvar?
http://www.tabletalkatlarrys.com/index.php/2012/01/louvar-a-fish-you-may-never-taste-or-even-see/

APRIL 11, 2014 –
I just learned something new: next Wednesday, April 16, is National Eggs Benedict Day.  Gotta wonder about the marketing maven who would take this traditional Sunday brunch item and stick it in the middle of the week. http://www.tabletalkatlarrys.com/index.php/2012/01/louvar-a-fish-you-may-never-taste-or-even-see/

MARCH 1, 2014 –
Another wonderful dinner last night at Panzanella in Sherman Oaks CA. The rain was falling heavily on Ventura Blvd. and the restaurant was packed with laughing and chattering diners. Jennifer said she is surprised when L.A. people come out on rainy nights. We each had one of our favorites, mushroom soup, to start. Jennifer had the Involtini for her main and I had the Penne Arabieta with meat balls. Read my recommendation of Panzanella at http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=16

FEBRUARY 21, 2014 –
Frogs’ legs in a wonderful garlic-butter sauce, duck l’ orange, juicy and crisp … Life is good. Of course my cardiologist might have a different opinion of my dining habits on a night like this. It was at Le Sanglier in Tarzana CA. http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=28

FEBRUARY 20, 2014 –
True multiculturalism – We were at breakfast at Beep’s Diner yesterday when an African-American women came in and ordered a pastrami burrito. Being at Beep’s is like being in the 1950s. The music is Elvis, Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry … Real malts with whipped cream … photos of Grace Kelly, James Dean … and prices? Ham with two sunny side up eggs, wonderful potatoes, toast and coffee for $7.06. It’s at the corner of Woodley and Sherman Way in Van Nuys CA. http://www.beepsdiner.com/

JANUARY 27, 2014 –
Today’s mail contained a post card for the Italian food magazine La Cucina Italiana. It informs me the magazine is ceasing publication after the January/February 2014 edition. Subscribers are being offered the option of receiving Bon Appetit for the same number of months as their unfilled subscriptions, or receiving a refund.

JANUARY 19, 2014 –
Jennifer and I met our friends Edward and Susan Lacey for dinner at Musso and Frank Grill in Hollywood last night. It’s the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. We sat at Charlie Chaplin’s old table. We’ve known the Laceys 40 years. The calf’s liver and onions were as spectacular as ever. The place was packed. http://www.tabletalkatlarrys.com/index.php/2011/05/musso-and-frank-grill-where-history-meets-the-future-in-hollwyood/ 

JANUARY 15, 2014 –
Enotria Restaurant and Wine Bar, one of the shinning stars of the Sacramento dining scene, shut down permanently today after 17 years in operation. It was a recommended restaurant at atLarrys.com. Read more about the closing at the Sacramento Bee blog: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/15/6075194/enotria-restaurant-shuts-down.html

JANUARY 14, 2014 –
R23, the downtown L.A. Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, located on an old railroad siding, has closed for renovations. No reopening date has been give.

JANUARY 7, 2014 –
Tonight’s dinner at Parkway Grill in Pasadena. Embarrassed to say I’ve never been there before. Will go back and I will post it soon as a recommendation at atLarrys.com. Very nice room, top notch service, a thoroughly enjoyable meal and an excellent wine list. Oh, yeah, and the company couldn’t be better – Jennifer’s birthday dinner, just the two of us.

JANUARY 4, 2014 –
Dinner last night at Hatfield’s on Melrose in L.A. with long time friend Vince Duffy. Jennifer and I got to meet his wife, Karen. I think Hatfield’s would have to be listed among my favorite L.A. restaurants. The room is beautiful and restful, the service is right on and the food is wonderful.

NOVEMBER 24, 2013 –
It’s probably aged long enough. The L.A. Times has a story today of a wine cellar in Israel with unopened jugs dating back 3,700 years. Red and whites. How’d you like to see the vintage on that label. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-ancient-wine-cellar-found-3700-years-old-20131122,0,3869281.story#axzz2ld8Vc6Apds

NOVEMBER 20, 2013 –
About once in every 25 visits to Asanebo I have an all sushi dinner instead of ordering omakase. Tonight was one of those times. Three hours and twenty minutes of fabulous sushi. The place was packed from 6:30 to 9:30 on a Wednesday night – every seat at the sushi bar, every table filled for three solid hours mid-week.

NOVEMBER 18, 2013 –
Menu changes at Kendall’s Brasserie & Grill at the L.A. Music Center. Bit of a French influence moving in. Frogs legs and steak tartare have been added. I love frogs legs so I ordered them for a starter. There’s also a new chicken tagine on the menu. So I ordered that to find out if frogs legs really do taste like chicken. Just kidding. They don’t. And these had so much garlic they didn’t taste like frogs legs either. Read about Kendall’s at http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=72

NOVEMBER 15, 2013 –
Todd Murakami, who has been my number one sushi man for 25 years, will be opening his new restaurant soon at 7160 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles. Todd closed his place on Wilcox in Hollywood the end of September.

NOVEMBER 14, 2013 –
Word has leaked out that the San Francisco Chronicle will be terminating its stand-alone food section in February. It will be merged into a general living section, just as the L.A. Times killed its food section a couple of years back.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/14/business/media/san-francisco-chronicle-plans-to-end-its-prized-food-section.html?_r=0

NOVEMBER 13, 2013 –
A 52.2 million-year-old fossilized tomatillo, still in its papery shell, was found in Southern Argentina. They say the colors are true but it probably doesn’t have much flavor left.
http://www.nbcnews.com/science/tomatillo-isnt-too-fresh-its-52-2-million-years-old-8C11535558

NOVEMBER 11, 2013 –
Dusted off one of my favorite original recipes for dinner – Poached chicken thighs in morel mushroom sauce. I made it up in a super market one day, when I couldn’t think of what to make for dinner and just wandered around looking for inspiration. I don’t know that I’ve ever created a better recipe. Great for the family and would work for a dinner party. http://www.tabletalkatlarrys.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=587&action=edit&message=1

OCTOBER 19, 2013 -|
We’re taking down the recommendation for Ocean Avenue Seafood in Santa Monica. It has undergone a massive renovation, has an all new menu and has changed its name. It now is called Water Grill, just like the sister restaurant in downtown L.A. I’ll try it soon to see if I want to recommend the new place. I’m a bit skeptical for two reasons: 1) I’ve never loved the Water Grill downtown, and 2) atLarrys.com co-hosts Elias Davis and Gale Block say the new place breaks records for the noise level.
We had dinner last night with Elias and Gale at The Hungry Cat in Santa Monica Canyon. I wasn’t crazy about the menu. It seems kind of limited. But I ordered two off-menu specials that were very good. For a starter I had uni au natural. It was a whole Santa Barbara sea urchin cut open and served on a plate with a small spoon for scooping the uni out of the shell. The only way you could get it fresher would be to dive off the coast of Santa Barbara, grab one for yourself and eat it on the beach. I passed on the fish dishes for my main and went for the panko-crusted fried quail served with creamy grits, turnips and turnip greens. Great meal. Jennifer, Elias and Gale each had fish – king salmon and sword fish – and said it was very good. But quail is one of my weak spots.

OCTOBER 8, 2013 –
Another Capital area restaurant has shut down in Sacramento. McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurant at 11th and J closed today with no advance warning. Customers arrive to find a sign on the door announcing that the restaurant is out of business. It was just one month ago that THE BROILER, a Sacramento institution, shut its doors.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 –
Drinks last evening at the bar at Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, probably my favorite bar in the state. The decor is a throw back to 1930s Hollywood and the view from the beachside location is wonderful. Then dinner at One Pico across the street at Shutters Hotel. Who says you can’t have good food and good view in the same place? Sunset over the Pacific with the colors of the ferris wheel on the pier spinning … this is why we all live here.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2013 –
If you’ve never tasted sea pike at a sushi restaurant, now’s the time. It’s a very short season, usually sometime in August through late October or early November. Sea pike is a read fleshed fish that comes from an island off the coast of Northern Japan. It tastes wonderful either raw or seared. I first tasted it at Asanebo in Studio City CA a few years ago. I had it several times recently at Hirozen near the Beverly Center and tonight I had it as Asanebo. Sushi chef Macha said warmer ocean temperatures could me a longer season this year.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2013 –
Brunch this a.m. at Sarducci’s in San Juan Capistrano with nephew Brian and niece Lisa. There’s a train station right outside the back door – Amtrak and Metrolink. Turns out we could have taken the train round trip instead of driving. There’s a Metrolink station less than a mile from where we live. Downtown to Union Station, change trains and we would have been there. We need to be more mindful of those possibilities. I had a decent enough plate of Huevos Rancheros.

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 –
GOOD NEWS / BAD NEWS – The good news is I just opened a bottle of 2007 Alexander Valley Silver Oak Cab Sav to have with some cheese and crackers and it’s wonderful. The bad news – my favorite lunch meeting spot in Sacramento, THE BROILER STEAKHOUSE closed with no advance warning or notice. I’ve been enjoying lunch sandwiches there – open face tri-tip or sirloin with Lyonnaise potatoes on sour dough bread since the mid-1970s and it’s old location on “J” street and the newer place on “K”. The Broiler has been an institution for politicos, lobbyists and reporters for nearly 40 years. Oh, the deals that were made over lunches there.

Here’s a link to a Sacramento Bee story on the closing of The Broiler: http://m.sacbee.com/sacramento/db_99541/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=dn3ouFQb&full=true#display

AUGUST 27, 2013 –
32nd annual Chili Cook off at Malibu this coming weekend. Read about it at L.A. Observed. http://www.laobserved.com/malibu/2013/08/the_end_of_summer.php

JULY 27, 2013 –
Sad news. Art Ginsberg of Art’s Deli in Studio City CA has died. He was one of Los Angeles’ true pioneers of excellent deli. The restaurant is a regular meeting spot for L.A. politicos and many of the Hollywood types who live in the area. The sign proclaimed: Every Sandwich A Work of Art. The restaurant still is family owned and operated. My favorite: hot tongue on a kaiser roll. Ear hearty, Art. We’ll miss you.

JULY 20, 2013 –
Great sushi week. It started with a nigiri feast at Horizen on Beverly Blvd. It’s a new favorite. I’ll be adding it to atLarrys.com as a recommended restaurant soon. I downed more than 30 pieces of sushi. What can I say? I’ve never left a sushi restaurant feeling that I couldn’t eat more. The week finished last night with an omakazi feast at Asanebo.

MAY 27, 2013 –
After filling up on hot dogs and fries at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island this afternoon, we decides a lite dinner was in order. So, we went to the Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street in Manhattan, home of the oversized portions. I had a wonderful piece of skirt steak, my favorite cut of beef. Jennifer and cousin Beverly shared an order of pot roast, which was enough for two. Then Jennifer had a real old fashioned chocolate malt and I had a vanilla egg cream. Brooklyn Diner has been a favorite of ours for a decade. As for Coney Island, that the subject of a separate piece now appearing on the food magazine proving You Can Go Home Again.

MAY 26 – 2013 –
James Beard Foundation, what were you thinking? The foundation named Keen’s Chophouse in Manhattan as one of the five winner of this year’s awards for classic local restaurants. The place is 128 years old. So, we decided to try it. Bad decision. The signature mutton chop ordered by cousin Barry was flavorful – the gamey lamb flavor I love. My T-bone was tough, tasteless and overcooked as was the rib eye Jennifer ordered. No char on any of the meat. Proof that a place doesn’t need to be good to last 128 years. I don’t get it.

MAY 25, 2013 –
Another home run of a dinner tonight. Several people had recommended The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a meal. And I had foie gras and asked if I could have more for dessert. Lloyd likes to say I never ate so much foie gras before it was banned in California as I have since. He may be right. Forbidden fruit and all that stuff. But I’ve always loved it. Before the ban, however, I never felt that I had to grab every opportunity.

MAY 24, 2013 –
Le Bernardin is the Citadel of fish and that’s where we had dinner tonight with our cousins Barry and Beverly. Fabulous room; fabulous food; wonderful company. We indeed are very fortunate people.

MAY 23, 2013 –
Hours spent prowling the incredible Reading Terminal Market. Butcher shops, fish mongers, cheese stands, ethnic restaurants everywhere. I hoped to try scrapple for the first time ever at Down Home Café but they no longer serve it. So it was wonderful Italian sausage sandwiches with hot peppers on a great roll at Tony DiNic’s. Then ice cream at Bassett’s. For dinner it was a bus ride to Jim’s Steaks on South St. for a cheesesteak sandwich. I just couldn’t make myself eat cheese whiz. Good sandwich. I think I prefer the Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago if I had to choose. But why choose?

MAY 22, 2013 –
Dinner at Iron Chef Morimoto’s place in Philadelphia tonight. Disappointing. Food preparation was too fussy for my taste – obscured the taste of the fish. And the sushi course could only be called morsels, not pieces. I like his New York place better. Good, however, to be reacquainted with Santa Barbara uni.

MAY 20, 2013 –
I was tempted to try my hand at a mound of blue crab, but couldn’t make myself do it. I came for soft shells and that’s what I had again tonight.

MAY 19, 2013 –
That’s more like it. They weren’t sautéed, but they were wonderful. Two soft shells, lightly battered and deep fried, served golden on my plate. Perfectly shaped and textured. We’ll come back here tomorrow night.

MAY 18, 2013 –
At long last – soft shell crabs at Chesapeake Bay. Tonight’s were sautéed, not cooked very well. Sautéed is the way I usually get them in L.A. but these were mushy. Too bad. I’ve been looking forward to soft shells at Chesapeake Bay for years. We’ll try a different place tomorrow.

MAY 17, 2013 –
I learned a big lesson about barbeque today. Dinner was at High Cotton at Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Eastern North Carolina Q features sauce that his heavier in vinegar and lighter in tomato. It’s the opposite in the western part of the state. Also, what you do in you back yard between Memorial Day and Labor Day – that’s grilling, not barbecueing, unless you have a wood smoker and are willing to let the meat cook for a long time at low heat. My St. Louis cut of ribs and the Brunswick stew were excellent. So was Jennifer’s brisket.

MAY 16 , 2013 –
Had my first ever soft shell crab sandwich today Mulligan’s at Nag’s Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Well-battered and deep fried, served with lettuce, tomato, onion and a tangy mayo on a white bread bun, accompanied by a killer slaw and very good fries.

MAY 1, 2013 –
Before Sacramento CA burst forth as a truly outstanding restaurant town, there was Frank Fat’s. It has long been a favorite of legislators, reporters, lobbyists and government officials. The 74-year-old spot now has received the James Beard Foundations “America’s Classics Award”.  I ate at Frank Fat’s the first time in 1965, when I was on assignment as summer vacation relief bureau chief for Copley News Service. The Beard Foundation news release says the award “is given to restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved for quality food that reflects the character of their community.” The restaurant remains a favorite with the “capitol crowd”, including Gov. Jerry Brown.

APRIL 28, 2013 –
STRETCCHH – Talk about getting the most out of a rib end piece of pork loin. Thursday night it was marinated in Chinese flavors and served with roasted potatoes. Some of the left overs turned up in a hot pot for dinner last night. And the l…ast of it became a hash with fried potatoes and onions with sunnyside up eggs for breakfast this a.m. First time in my life I’ve made a hash. Turned out excellent. Nice way to start a bright Sunday morning.  1/2 lb left over pork loin cut into 1/4 inch cubes; 1/2 brown onion diced very small; 1/2 russet potato peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes; 2 large eggs: butter: olive oil; salt and pepper. Brown the onions in olive oil (net EVO); boil the potatoes 4 min. then drain thorougly to dry; set onions aside and sautee potatoes in butter in the same pan; set the potatoes aside; add the pork and onion to the pan to heat; fry the two eggs; add the potatoes back into the pan to heat. Spoon the hash on two plates and top with a fried egg.

APRIL 23, 2013 –
Can the famous Rao’s of New York make it in Los Angeles, where locals tend to have loyalties to a host of established Italian restaurants? We’re going to find out. Rao’s has announced plans to open a restaurant in the late spring or early summer. It will be at the site of The Hollywood Canteen at 1006 Seward St. in Hollywood. The Canteen shut its doors in 1945 at the close of WW II. Regular customers at Rao’s in NY essentially own tables for life. Visitors cannot get reservations. Rao’s has a branch at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The restaurant serves Southern Italian cuisine and is famous for its meatballs and lemon chicken.  I’ve eaten at Rao’s in Vegas. It won’t pull me away from the local Drago restaurants.

APRIL 20, 2013 –
Dinner last night at Le Sanglier in Tarzana CA. Escargot imported from Burgundy followed by sauteed quail stuffed with minced liver and accompanied by potatoes au gratin, green beans and baby carrots. Jennifer had the steamed mussels, poach…ed Maine lobster tail in a red beet emulsion. She finished with a fabulous Napolean.  Read a recommendation for Le Sanglier at the restaurant site atLarrys.com  – http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=28

APRIL 18, 2013  –
The L.A. Times has a report of a restaurant in Laguna Beach CA that is skirting the state’s ban on the sale of foie gras by giving it away. Just buy a glass of wine for $55 and get a free serving of foie gras. In one week the restaurant – Broadway by Amar Santana – sold 50 glasses of wine and gave away 12 pounds of foie gras. Read the full article – http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-free-foie-gras-with-55-glass-of-wine-skirts-duck-liver-ban-20130417,0,5342854.story

APRIL 14, 2013 –
Imagine my surprise. We were going to join our son John and his family and our nephew Bryan and his family for dinner a Disneyland. I was prepared for a tourist hotel meal. No expectations. So, imagine my suprise when I scanned the menu at Catal and found it’s a Patina Restuarant Group restaurant and Joachim Spichal is the executive chef. The food was very good. And the biggest surprise? Ten people for dinner and the bill came to $56 per person, includng tax, tip and a bottle of wine. Six of us had appetizers plus entres; four had just entres; nine had desserts. How wudda ever thunk it? Good food at a good price at Disneyland.

APRIL 13, 2013 –
Dinner tonight at Brats Brothers Gourmet Sausage Grill in Studio City. For a full recommendation – http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=235. Jennifer had the New Zealander – lamb sausage – and a side of hot saurkraut. Terrific flavor. I had my favorite Hungarian – spicy pork.

APRIL 7, 2013 –
Dinner last night with friends Jacqui and Jon Irwin at Brophy Brothers in Ventura CA. Just kept piling plates and platters on the table for all to share. Beer steamed shrimp, oysters, Dunginess crab, calamari, beer battered shrimp, clam strips, clam chowder and great beer. See the Brophy Brothers recommendation at http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=246

MARCH 31, 2013 –
In the quest for perfection in the kitchen, L.A. Times food writer Russ Parsons offers tips for the perfect hard boiled egg – no split shell, not overcooked yolk: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-calcook-20130330,0,2875447.story

MARCH 28, 2013 –
Anniversary dinner last night at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant at the Bel-Air Hotel. Always loved the hotel and the beautiful grounds. Now there is a restaurant to match the location. The menu is loaded with some of my favorites – Guinea hen, quail, Colorado Lamb … Talk about one door closing, etc. I used to have guinea hen at the Royce at the Langham. (See yesterday’s note.) Now I can have it at the Bel-Air. Not many places in the U.S. serve it. It’s one of my favorites throughout the U.K.  I’ll post a recommendation for Puck at the Bel-Air in a couple of days at the restaurant site http://www.arlarrys.com/

MARCH 27, 2013 –
The Royce at The Langham in South Pasadena, which I loved, has re-opened as The Royce Steak House. It’s still at the Langham Hotel. The menu – meat, meat and more meat with a couple of sea food options.

MARCH 26, 2013 –
On the mend. The Boardwalk branch of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs at Coney Island in Brooklyn NY reopened last weekend. It, along with much of the rest of the fun zone area, had been closed since the devistation of Sandy in November. The original Nathan’s stand on Surf Avenue is schedule to reopen Memorial Day weekend. Many of the rides at Coney Island also reopened last weekend.

MARCH 24, 2012 –
Dinner tonight at Vitello’s in Studio City CA. Famous as the Robert Blake restuarant. It’s time to outlive that identity, but it most likely never will. It’s a favorite of our friends Eric and Michael, so we agreed to try it even though we hadn’t liked it in the past. Remodel job makes it far more friendly and attractive. I had a veal picatta that was very good. A side of pasta with olive oil and garlic was cooked perfectly. The canolli was filled with whipped cream instead of ricotta cheese. Different but very good in a nice shell.

MARCH 2, 2013 –
We finally got to the new new Spago for dinner tonight. I had been to the original in West Hollywood years ago and enjoyed it. We had been to the Beverly Hills location and liked it. Now, the newly re-decorated Beverly Hills spot with the renovated menu is a home run. The energy in the room was wonderful. And the food – incredible. I had a roast quail appetizer. Jennifer oepened with the pea soup. Both were excellent. Then we shared the pork and pasta second. Fabulous. I had the rack of Colorado lamb for a main and Jennifer had the short ribs. Winner, winner, winner. The service was friendly. The crowd was alive. All in all, a very enjoyable dining experience.

FEBRUARY 24, 2013 –
Ten foods to boost your sex drive … I stumbled upon this slide show from Health.com today. http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/slideshow?cp-documentid=250218783#1 What did we do before the internet?

I went to Asanebo in Studio City CA for a sushi dinner tonight. I arrived at opening time – 6 p.m. It was after 6:30 before any other customers showed up. At that time there were four of us diners and four sushi chefs. Jennifer had predicted there would be no women at the restaurant on Academy Award night. The chefs told me they usually start Sunday night with about 35 reservations. Tonight there were four. So, here’s a question: which night is slower at a Michelin Star sushi restaurant in Studio City – Oscar night or Super Bowl Sunday? Never thought of it before. But the answer is Super Bowl Sunday. The restaurant doesn’t even open that night.

FEBRUARY 23, 2013 –
Overnight thought: the donuts in “best donuts” probably are very good and the restaurants in “most important” probably ate important. It the “best” and “most” that offend. So, go to www.tabletalkatlarrys@earthlink.net and nominate your own favorite donut shops and your own important restaurants. If we get enough response we’ll publish our own list.

FEBRUARY 22, 2013 –
I could just SCREAM. Latest edition of Saveur arrived today. The cover touts “the world’s BEST DONUTS”. Yesterday it was Bon Appetit with an article called “The 20 Most Important Restaurants in America”. How do they know./ Have they eaten at every donut shop in the world? Who says these are the most important restaurants? What about all the others. I could make a list of 200 important restaurants without including any of these 20. Why can’t they just say “Great Donuts from Around the World” or “20 Important American Restaurants”. When you see these teasers on the magazine covers in the news racks, do you believe the claim. It’s a sucker’s buy. No real food fan would make such claims or believe them.

FEBRUARY 19, 2013 –
The San Francisco Chronicle has published it’s list of Top 100 local restaurants. http://www.sfgate.com/food/top100/2012/

FEBRUARY 14, 2013 –  I remember the first time I tasted one of Manuel’s Special burritos from El Tepeyac Cafe in East Los Angeles. I was working in an election campaign headquarters on Western Avenue. Someone said they were going out to bring in Mexican food for lunch and asked it I wanted anything. “Thanks. Bring me a burrito,” I said. Not long after they handed me a brown paper bag with something in it, heavy and large enough to be a couple of old phone books, when phone books were massive. It was spring of 1970. I thought they were playing a joke on me. I opened the bag and found Godilla the Burrito. It was Manuel’s five-pound special. Four of us shared it and it was fabulous. Manuel Rojas, owner of the restaurant and creator of the legendary burrito died this week of lung cancer. There’s a very nice obit for him in today’s L.A. Times. You can read Victor Griego’s recommendation of El Tepeyac at the restaurant recommendation web site atlarrys.com

FEBRUARY 3, 2013
Service counts. We went to dinner with our friends Lisa and Jim last night at Rick Bayless’ Red O in L.A. The company was wonderful. The food was very good. But the service detracted greatly. Jim’s napkin fell from his lap; a staff person walked by and picked it up but no one brought him a replacement until he asked for one. Jennifer’s napkin became soiled after a few courses of finger food. She asked the bus person for a replacement; he took the used one but didn’t return with a clean one. Ultimately, she flagged down another bus staffer and asked for a napkin. We ordered a trio of ceviche and were served the wrong ceviche. The waitress apologized, told us to go ahead an eat it anyway compliments of the house and quickly re-appeared with the correct dish. Then, not two minutes later, she was back with a second serving of the correct dish, which we turned back. We ordered five appetizers to share. They arrived one on top of the other and the table soon became over-crowded to the point where the sharing was a challenge. Jennifer and Lisa ordered two desserts to share and Jennifer asked for a cup of coffee. The desserts were all but gone when she had to flag down the waitress to ask again for her coffee. After a hurried apology, the waitress said she would have coffee sent to the table. The bus person arrived at my side of the table and tried to reach across me to set the coffee in front of Jennifer. No reason for that; there was plenty of room for him to walk around the table to her side and serve the coffee. I put my hand up to stop him but he didn’t understand what I was doing and continued to try to reach across me. I thought he was going to take my nose off. I gently took his wrist and stopped him. Then I asked him to please go around the table to serve the coffee. He had no idea what I was saying, so I gestured until he got it. By the time he put the cup on the table the saucer was filled with overflowed coffee. Now, you might be able to shrug all this off at some local diner, or maybe a chain coffee shop. But at a top rated restaurant? A Rick Bayless restaurant? I’ve been wanting to taste Bayless’ Mexican cooking for some time. This was my first. Will I go back? Don’t know. There were lots of things on the menu I would love to try. But a restaurant that pays so little attention to the details … I’m not sure. Still and all, it was wonderful to be able to spend a few hours with Lisa and Jim. They are bright, intelligent and delightful people. Our last outing with them was a small plates feast at Brabrix, where the food was excellent, the service excellent and the plates arrived in succession instead of all at once.

JANUARY 26, 2013 –
Finally got to a Bobby Flay restaurant. Ashamed to admit it was the first time. We were at Mesa Grill at Caesers Palace on the Vegas Strip. Caesers is ancient by Vegas standards. It opened in 1966. Mesa Grill has been here since 2004. But we hardly ever get to Vegas anymore and Flay doesn’t have a place in L.A. Thus part of the reason for this deficit. We shared appetizers – shrimp with corn tamalle a and chicken skewers with small flour tortillas, grilled onions and a sauce that geve the whole think nice heat. Jennifer liked the chicken skewers so much that she ordered another portion for her main. I had a chili rellano for the main. I would have had steak but it felt like too much food. For lunch today we had dim sum at Noodles, at the Bellagio. Excellent.

JANUARY 25, 2013 –
Dinner tonight at an old favorite – Picasso at the Bellagio Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Old in Vegas is relative. The Bellagio opened 14 years ago and Picasso has been here since the start. Jennifer and I each had a warm quail salad that was excellent. She then had the black cod and I had the foie gras second course. Her main was imported kobe beef fillet mignon and mine was a veal chop in a pinot noir reduction. Rich, on rich, on rich. Three bites into the veal chop I reached my richness threshold. Too bad. It was delicious. Imagine a hotel with Picasso, Prime and Michael Mina under one roof.

JANUARY 20, 2013 –
Great one-two punch. Lunch yesterday at Mo-Chica, the Peruvian place on W. 7th St. in downtown L.A. The ceviche is as good as they say. Then dinner at Bratz Brothers in Sherman Oaks. When they talk aboiut the revival of downtown L.A. I know what they mean. We walked three blocks on 7th St. from Flower to Olive and saw what mush have been a dozen interesting restaurants. Another place to amuse myself.

JANUARY 16, 2013 –
I’ve seen it before, but it never registered – a commercial offering 30 shrimp for $11.95 at Red Lobster. Why would anyone want 30 shrimp, unless they were raw and you are having a dinner party.

JANUARY 7, 2013 –
Birthday dinner tonight for Jennifer at Bouchon in Beverly Hills. We had been to Bouchon in the Napa Valley a few years back and were disappointed. But it’s Thomas Keller and Lloyd and Edie were here with friends New Years Eve and said it was excellent. First Monday of the month was ad hoc fried chicken night with a limited version of the regular menu. I had pate and fried chicken and thought it was tops. Jennifer found grit in many of her mussels. Her flat iron steak with way too many fries was good. We’re going back sometime for the regular menu.

JANUARY 5, 2013 –
At Gemini Seafood in Issaquah WA a BFC is a big fat crab and the first-of-the-season, locally-caught Dungeness crabs are in – 2 pounds and up. I had a 2.39 pounder for dinner tonight and the home of son John and daughter-in-law Julie. Wonderful. It was in the water 24 hours ago.

JANUARY 1, 2013 –
What do you do with about $20 worth of left over chaterelle and oyster mushrooms and 3 cups of left over Thomas Keller mushroom broth? You add sauted onions, dry sherry, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper and make a gravey. Then you poach a couple of chicken breast halves in the gravey and serve it with mashed potatoes. The mushrooms were left over from the Dec. 30 dinner party – Rumanian eggp lant salad and triple cream brie for appetizers, home made mushroom soup, braised shortribs with mashed potatoes, sauted baby carrots and gravey, and home made biscuit tortoni. Great end to the old year; great start to the new one.

DECEMBER 28, 2012 –
Another deli bites the dust. This time it Junior’s on Westwood Blvd. in L.A. A couple of weeks ago it was the Stage Deli in Manhattan. The 53-year-old L.A. deli once was a hot spot for westside politicos. They met there for breakfasts and the back room was a favorite for breakfast fundraisers. But things cooled in the last several years as regulars drifted away amid complains that the quality of the food had slipped. Restaurant owners told the L.A. Times the closing is the result of the property owner’s demand for a sharp rise in the lease price. The Times reported revenues at the restaurant dropped some 20% in the last three years.

DECEMBER 26, 2012-
Just back from a visit to Cambria in time to find a fascinating article on the L.A.Times online regarding soaring demand for California agricultural land. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-farmland-20121226,0,5032283.story

DECEMBER 9, 2012 –
Henry’s Tacos, a North Hollywood landmark and institution for more than 50 years, is closing the end of this month. L.A. Observed has a piece on the situation at  http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2012/12/henrys_tacos_announces_it.php. In his latest Harry Bosch mystery story, Black Box, author Michael Connelly has Detective Bosch and his daughter stopping for dinner at Henry’s.

DECEMBER 8, 2012 –
Today’s online food section of the L.A. Times has an interesting and fun hamburger quize by Jonathan Gold . http://www.latimes.com/features/food/dailydish/la-dd-jonathan-gold-hamburgers-20121205-quiz,0,4172306.story

DECEMBER 2, 2012 –
Can the end be far away for the L.A. Times print edition food pages? Yesterday was a new low – I mean an all time low. That I was too busy to look at the pages until today is a sign of what has happened to the once hallowed section that contained the weekly writings of the late David Shaw. The content has shrunk to so little that I don’t wake up Saturday mornings anxious to grab the section in which food and restaurant news is buried. But yesterday? Two half pages. That’s it. Two half pages for food and restaurant news. And what there was slipped further back in the section to pages 8 and 9. It leaves one to wonder why the paper would have lured Jonathan Gold away from the L.A. Weekly just as food news was becoming extinct. While Gold is an interesting writer who specializes in reviews of often out-of-the-way ethnic restaurants, the paper has abandoned coverage of the elite of the local restaurant world, leaving us with no one to hold that segment responsible. Management of the Times clearly has no commitment to food and restaurant news. Weeks go by with little to no advertising to support food and restaurant content. This week there was none. We are trying to fill the content gap here at Table Talk atLarrys.com. We are in a serious search for freelance food writers to increase the amount and variety of our content and we are looking to expand the roster of people writing restaurant recommendations for our sister site – http://www.atlarrys.com

We are aware of the heartbreak and personal loss that storm Sandy brought to hundreds of thousdands of New Yorkers. And we certainly have no intent to make little or light of the devistation felt by many of our friends and many of the neighborhoods in which we spent our youth. Now comes a piece in the New York Times that fills in some of the shadows around the edges. It looks at what has happened to many of the old, traditional restaurants in Coney Island. Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand was ravaged by the storm and has had to close for repairs. Here’s the link to the Times piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/dining/after-hurricane-sandy-fighting-to-save-the-flavor-of-new-york.html?ref=dining&_r=0

DECEMBER 1, 2012 –
The venerable Stage Deli in Manhattan is closing after 75 years in business. David Sax, author of Save the Deli, has a nice piece on the role of the Stage in the history of deli in America. http://m.forward.com/blogs/the-jew-and-the-carrot/167020/shiva-for-the-stage-deli/?utm_campaign&utm_source=m.facebook.com&utm_medium=jd.fo-other&utm_content=general-general. We reviewed Sax, book at this site. Click on Food Books in the menu at the right side of this page. We stopped going to the Stage about a decade ago because the quality of the food had sagged. We might have stopped even before that were it not for the history of the restaurant.

NOVEMBER 17, 2012 –
Perfect for a rainy, gloppy day – Coq Au Vin made at home from  a Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook I was given as a gift nearly nearly 30 years ago. Over lunch in Paris a year ago a French friend said in France coq au vin is made with a 6-year-old rooster. I used chicken thighs.

NOVEMBER 14, 2012 –
After all this time, here comes the first food joke to be published at this online food magazine. It really happened. JENNIFER (while eating a baked yam that was hot enough to make her uncomfortable): “This yam really holds it’s heat.” ME: “You know why, don’t you?” JENNIFER: “No. Why?” ME: “Because it wears a jacket.”

NOVEMBER 9, 2012 –
Three favorite Italian restaurants in seven days. Last Saturday it was Panzanella in Sherman Oaks for a dinner party celebrating 50 years since Jennifer arrive in the U.S. Wednesday night we were at de’ Medici Cucina Ristorante in San Diego and tonight it was Vivace at the Aviara Resort in Carlsbad.  What would Americans eat if there was not Italy?

NOVEMBER 4, 2012 –
We hosted a dinner party last night to celebrate 50 years since Jennifer first arrived in the U.S. from her native England. 18 of us – family and friends – gathered in a private room at Panzanella in Sherman Oaks CA. It was a wonderful event, made even moreso by the help of Magda, Massimo and Kelly of the restaurant staff. We started with passed Arancini and pizza margherita. When seated, every one was served gnocchi verdi with a beef ragu. Most popular item ordered from the menu was the branzino. Probably half the people there went that route. Food and service were excellent, as always.

OCTOBER 27, 2012 –
It’s official. Never mind what the calendar says. Summer at our house ends when we no longer can get fresh blueberries grown in the U.S. or Canada. This was the week it happened. So, for the next seven or eight months it will be sliced banana in the oatmeal instead of fresh blueberries. Why not buy the ones imported from South America? Don’t like the taste. Why not buy the frozen ones? They have no taste.

OCTOBER 26, 2012 –
If I weren’t so busy with theater tickets this weekend I’d be on a plane headed to Washington State – more particularly Gemini Seafood is Issaquah. Last January Gemini’s Jim Oswalt saw, tasted and sold a fish called Louvar for the first time after 25 years in the business. This weekend he came up with another one and is offering it to local customers, including my son John. My grand daughter Ella, who was 6 at the time, said in January it was the best fish she ever tasted. You can read about this rare catch in the article we published in January – http://www.tabletalkatlarrys.com/index.php/2012/01/louvar-a-fish-you-may-never-taste-or-even-see/

OCTOBER 24, 2012 –
L.A. Observed – http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2012/10/nice_elegy_to_the_place_t.php – has a nice piece on the impending closure of Campanile. The closing is scheduled for next week.

OCTOBER 19, 2012 –
I don’t recall ever eating a better sushi dinner than the one I had at Asanebo in Studio City CA the other night. As I frequently do at Asanebo, I ordered omekase. It was the same story at course after course – as I bit into the fish the aromas of the flavors filled up my passages. I closed my eyes, continued to chew and released more waves of fresh, clean flavor.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2012 –
Terrific piece by Jonathan Gold in today’s L.A. Times food pages. It’s an ode to the soon-to-close Campanile. Warm, personal, touching, human. For some unexplainable reason Campanile never appeared on our list of favorites. The food always was good, but it just wasn’t a fit for Jennifer and me. There’s no denying the restaurant’s rightful place in the history of L.A. dining.

SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 –
A real L.A. day yesterday. Breakfast on the top floor of Barney’s of New York on Wilshire Blvd. in the heart of Beverly Hills. It’s Greengrass Deli. Through that door, a sun-bathed outdoor eating area and the Hollywood Hills looming beyond. Out that window, the towers of Century City with the Pacific Ocean in the background. On the table, belly lox, sable, sturgeon and bialies flown in from New York daily. Pricey? You bet. But the fish is great, the bialies not available anywhere else in L.A. and the feeling – real L.A.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2012 –
A two-sushi day today. Lunch at Asanebo – omakase – with my friend Ric. Dinner at Boss with my friend Amanda. Not the first time I’ve done sushi forlunch and dinner on the same day. You can read recommendations for each of these restaurants at atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2012 –
Enotria in Sacramento has stopped serving  Sunday brunch. Too bad. We had a wonderful Fathers’ Day brunch at Enotria and Larry Sheingold wrote an entire recommendation of the restaurant based on its wonderful brunches for the restaurant recommendation web site atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com.  My recommendation based on the restaurant’s dinners still stands.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 –
I first came upon cacciucco while reading the food memoir Mediterannean Summer in October, 2009. Based on what I read in the book, I created a recipe for this Livornese seafood stew. The following weekend I prepare the dish for dinner. Several days later, I finished the book and found a recipe in the back. That was that. Until today. I looked at the menu for Drago Centro in downtown L.A. and there it was. And tonight, while looking through the latest edition of Saveur I came across another recipe for the same dish. So, after living 70 years without ever hearing of cacciucco, it appears to be carving out a place on our culinary horizon.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2012 –
Did you know Newman’s Own organic dried apricots are black, not orange like most packaged dried apricots? Nothing on the package explains the difference. I bought these instead of the other brands I usually get because these have no sodium while the others have a little. I tasted on and it’s seems find.

SEPTEMBER 3, 2012-
We are taking down our two recommendations of Mo’s at atLarrys.com. The burger joint in the Toluca Lake section of Burbank was one of the original restaurants recommended when the website went live in 2009. I stopped in for lunch recently and found some signification changes. The menu no longer offered 24 types of burgers; that was trimmed to 4. And the salad/condiments bar was gone. The burger I had was very good and I was going to change, but not eliminate the recommendation. I looked at the dinner menu and found the same change. Today I went to the Mo’s website and found it still lists all the items from the old menu. I went to the “contact” section of the site and tried to ask what was going on, but the site would not accept the email message. So, down it comes, at least until I can get some answers. Too bad because the burger I had was good and there’s a ton of history in this place. But their website amounts to a bait-and-switch operation.

AUGUST 25, 2012 –
Just picked up a gorgeous piece of fresh caught Alaskan king salmon at Gemini Seafood here in Issaquah WA. Son John will grill it on the BBQ for dinner tonight. While I was there I spied a lusceous looking fresh caught sturgeon and some beautiful fresh Alaskan black cod. None of it ever frozen. All sustainably caught. One of them will be tomorrow’s dinner. Too bad I have only one more night here.

AUGUST 20, 2012 –
The last of the four Brown Derby Restaurant locations in Los Angeles as been sold, according to an article in today’s L.A. Times. The site opened in 1929 as Willard’s chicken resturant. Movie producer Cecil B. DeMille bought the building and opened it as the Brown Derby in 1941. It became Michael’s Los Feliz restaurant in the 1960s and nearly 30 years later it became a Louise’s Trattoria location. The building was saved from the wrecking ball when it was designated as an historical monument several years ago. According to the Times, the new owners plan to re-open as MessHall in about a month. See the Times story: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-property-report-20120820,0,386396.story

AUGUST 18, 2012 –
I’ve been a regular at Asanebo, the excellent sushi restaurant in Studio City CA, for some four years. I was there tonight and it was busier earlier than I’ve ever seen it before. The doors opened at 6 p.m. By 6:02 there were 15 people in the place. By 6:20 11 of the 12 seats at the sushi bar were filled and only two tables remained available. The four sushi chefs were frantic. The food – omakase – was sensational. It always is. It usually doesn’t get this busy until closer to 7 p.m.

AUGUST 17, 2012 –
L.A. Observed – http://www.laobserved.com/ – reports the Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Torrance is closing Sept. 3. It’s only been open a few years and the announcement says it’s closing because of lack of sales. You can read about our Bob’s Big Boy discoveries by clicking on A FOOD LOVER’S JOURNEY in the Tavel section of the menu at the right.

 

AUGUST 15, 2012 –
Here’s a frightening report. It seems the amount of flotsom and jettsom that is estimated to have spilled into the Pacific Ocean after the tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster at Fukushima is somewhere in the area of 5 million tons. That would be 10 billion pounds. It is further estimated that about 1.5 million tons have hit the shores of the west coast of the U.S. – about 3 billion pounds. But we are constantly assured that none of it is radioactive refuse from the power plant. Let’s see: radioactive bluefin tuna found off the coast of San Diego, albacore tuna migrating from the coast of Japan to the Pacific Northwest, a 65-foot concrete pier washing up on the beach in Oregon.

AUGUST 10, 2012 –
Free watermelon all weekend at the 51st annual Sunland Tujunga Watermelon Fesival. It’s at Sunland Park, 8651 Foothill Blvd. Sunland. Until 11:30 tonight; noon to 11:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Watermelon eating contests, seed spitting contests for distance, watermelon carving demonstrations, food booths, live music on stage, arcade games, carnival rides, greased melon race and more. All for a $5 admission. Kids under 30 inches are free.
www.lionswatermelonfestival.com

AUGUST 7, 2012 –
The 11th Annual Italian Feast of San Gennaro is scheduled Sept. 28 – 30 on Hawthorn Avenue between Highland Boulevard and Orange Street in Hollywood. Jimmy Kimmel will host the event, which celebrates Italian food, culture and entertainment. For more details: www.feastofla.org.

AUGUST 5, 2012 –
So delicious and so many memories. I found a package of chicken hearts at Gelson’s this morning. They seldom have these delicacies, so I abandoned my plan for a fresh fruit lunch. I grew up eating sauteed chicken hearts a few times each month. Jennifer and our sons enjoyed them, too, and they once were available regularly. Memories of the times the four of us sat down to plates of chicken hearts raced at me as I ate mine today. Jennifer isn’t feeling well and didn’t want any. Darn.

AUGUST 4, 2012 –
Scratched an itch last night. I felt like a sandwich at Phillipe. So, with the top down on the car, Jennifer and I headed for downtown L.A. She had a double dippled lamb sandwich, potato salad, pickled beets and a beer. I had a single dipped lamb sandwich, a single dipped pork sandwich with hot mustard on each, pickled beets and a lemonade. We got there about 6:45, so the Dodger Stadium pre-game crowd already had cleared out.

JULY 31, 2012 –
Jennifer says it was the best salad dressing I’ve ever made. I always make my own, never store bought. This one was olive oil, balsamac vinegar, oregano, dijon mustard and lemon juice. Don’t ask me how much of each. It was just “some” until it tasted right. Actually, the first take was just about spot on. It needed only a little more mustard. The salad: spinach, red onion, tomato, avocado, steamed potato, bay shrimp.

JULY 29, 2012 –
I’ve been catching a bunch of flak over my contention that roasting a whole chicken to perfection is even more elusive than executing a perfect golf swing. I’ve had numbers of people contend that they regularly turn out perfect roasted whole chickens. I listen and smile and remind them the physiology of a chicken all but dictates it can’t be done – the breast and the thigh are not compatible to roasting at the same temperature for the same length of time. And I accuse them of being seduced by the beauty of that golden bird sitting on a carving board. Finally, I admit to the frequency with which I roast a whole bird myself.

JULY 23, 2012 –
National Hot Dog Day today. I can’t get to Nathan’s Coney Island, so it will be a 100% all  beef Vienna Chicago Dog with buns and neon relish flown in from Chicago at Q Chicago Dogs in Sherman Oaks CA for me.

JULY 21 – 2012 –
OK. Fair is fair. After weeks and months of challenging the L.A. Times for its short shrift treatment of food, a high five today for the paper’s food pages. There are five pages devoted to food subjects today. I think that may be the highest number of pages since the paper folded the food section into the new hash of a section called Saturday. And there actually is one food based advertisement.

JULY 20, 2012 –
I win. Great nephew Justin, 12, tasted my homemade kosher dill pickles yesterday and told me last night they are better than the one he had a Philippe a couple of weeks ago. And he had proclaimed the Philippe pickle to be the best he ever tasted. Now, the rest of his family wants a taste, even his brother Nathan, 7, who said he never has tasted a pickle. Click over to the pickle piece on this page and find the story of how these green wonders have united more than 125 years of family history. Also, see the recipe. Next up? I really do need to enter these babies in the L.A. County Fair next years.

JULY 19, 2012 –
Dinner last night at d’ Medici Cucina Restorante in the Gas Lamp section of San Diego. Cesar salad made tableside with an actual raw egg yolk and plenty of anchovy paste and extra anchovies. Veal piccatta tender and tasty with a side of spaghetti with just garlic and olive oil. Jennifer and I first ate at d’ Medici four years ago and have been there at least once on every subsequent visit to San Diego. See my full recommendation at atLarrys.com  http://www.atlarrys.com/recommendations-detail.php?Recommendation_ID=15

JULY 15, 2012 –
Another new low for the L.A. Times food pages yesterday. I forgot to even look at them. Once was a time when I looked forward to Thursday mornings. There would be George Skelton’s column on politics and government and there would be a food section with the writings of the late David Shaw. The Skelton column still runs on Thursday’s, but the food section is no more, just a few pages in a section called Saturday which runs on Saturday. I know, promised earlier to quit picking on the Times food pages. But this weekend brought a new low. The paper sat around the house all day Saturday. I looked at other parts of it. This morning I scooped up yesterday’s paper for the recycling pile.  Then I remembered the Saturday food pages and retrieved them from the pile. How sad. I hadn’t missed a thing. Four pages and not one single paid food-oriented advertisement. Which came first: did the L.A. food world abandon the L.A. Times or did the Times abandon the food world. And not one single review of a restaurant in L.A. or anywhere else. How long will it be until the bookkeepers at the Tribune Co. pull the plug on this sad, sad commentary?

JULY 10, 2012 –
From San Francisco comes word that the Persidio Social Club will have foie gras on its menu starting this week. The restaurant is located on federal land in the Persidio and believes that makes it exempt from the California bird feeding law, which in effect bans foie gras. Is this the same loophole that says workers at the San Onofre nuclear power plant are not covered by California’s whistle blower protection law because the facility is on federal land? How about restaurants on Native American reservation land?

JULY 7, 2012 –
The pickling jar on the counter got its first shaking this morning to redistibute the garglic, dill and salt. I was in the back yard for a few minutes this morning. When I walked back into the house, the first thing that hit me was the smell of the pickles – not overpower, but there. I was chopping some stuff this afternoon to make a salsa for dinner and I kept smelling garlic. But there was no garlic in the salsa. Then I realized – it’s the dill and the garlic from the pickles. I’ve been told through the year I should enter these pickles at the L.A. County Fair. Looked on line today. I missed the deadline by 11 days. Maybe next year.

JULY 5, 2012 –
At Phillipe for dinner last week, my 12-year-old great nephew Justin had a kosher pickle with his roast beef sandwich. He proclaimed it “the best pickle I’ve ever eaten.” I decided to take up the challenge. It’s been a couple of decades since I made homemade kosher dills from my mother’s old recipe. Yesterday I dusted off the recipe and put up a gallon jar. Depending on the temperature, they should be reading in four to six days. If the air conditioning runs too much of the time it’ll slow things down. We’ll be seeing Justin in a couple of weeks and I plan to bring him a jar of my pickles. In the meantime, if you want to see the recipe click on Memoirs in the menu on this home page. Then click on Cooking for a Beautiful Woman and go to Chapter 2, Puppy Love.

JULY 2, 2012 –
There are times when I’m jealous of my son John and his family, who live in Issaqua WA, about 20 minutes southeast of Seattle. It definately has nothing to do with the weather. It’s because they are about a mile away from Gemini Fish. Take a look at what this fish store has available right now and for the holiday and you’ll understand why. http://www.geminifish.com/ If I lived there I would eat fish four or five times a week. Of course I would play very little golf and go bonkers over the rain and short winter days. But when I see stuff like this from Gemini I want to climb on a plane and go eat.

JULY 1, 2012 –
Not quite a day that will live in infamy, yet it’s an infamous day. The last morsel of foie gras has been sold, produced and eaten in California. At least for the time being. The sun is shinning; the weather is warm; I’m playing golf again regularly. I should be happy. But it must be tempered. If I wanted to eat foie gras at dinner tonight I would need to be leaving California. Some night this week I will make chicken livers for dinner in honor of the absense of foie gras. Maybe tomorrow night after my golf tournament.

JUNE 29, 2012 –
197 years of dining in two nights. That’s what I’ve been up to this week. Wednesday night Jennifer and I had dinner at the oldest restaurant in Hollywood CA, 93-year-old Musso and Frank Grill. Last night it was dinner at 104-year-old Phillipe, the French Dip sandwich place in downtown L.A. I was there with my nephew Bryan and his two sons – Justin, 12, and Nathan, 7. What a kick to see those two youngsters visiting this piece of history. They were fascinated by the age of the place and Justin said the kosher pickle was the best pickle he’s ever eaten. I’ll have to make him a batch from my mother’s old recipe.

JUNE 23, 2012 –
Corti Brothers Market and Wine Store in East Sacramento has packages of foie gras on sale in the meat section at $65 a pound. With just seven days left before the California foie gras ban goes into effect, I’m wondering if there will be a clearance sale. On June 30 will there be signs in the store window announcing “must sell today – foie gras marked down – get it while it lasts – all stock absolutely must go.” How about this for an end run of the ban at restaurants and markets: sell chicken liver as an appetizer and give away free foie gras with every one purchased? Or is the broader California about to discover why I love chicken liver.

JUNE 20, 2012 –
Today’s Sacramento Bee Food & Wine Section has a very interesting article on California’s booming blueberry farming industry. Debbie Arrington wrote the informative piece. Seems there’s a big nationwide increased demand for blueberries and California farmers have risen to the challenge. By the way, notice I called it a Food & Wine Section. It’s 10 pages as opposed to the skimply L.A.Times 3-page Saturday excuse for a food section, which I refuse to call a section. Check the Bee article at http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/20/4573950/california-now-a-center-of-blueberry.html

JUNE 19, 2012 –
Cassell’s, the so-called “best” hamburger place in L.A., is closing temporarily. New owners will be moving the restaurant and revising the menu for a younger crowd, according to a report at L.A. Observed. http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2012/06/cassells_hamburgers_closi.php. It’s always dangerous and curious when someone buys a restaurant that’s an institution and immediately announces plans to revise the menu. We’ll withhold judgment. In the meantime, we’ve taken the recommendation down at atLarrys.com, the restaurant recommendation web site. Whether the new place and new menu goes up will be up to our resident Cassell’s expert Larry Dietz, whose L.A. Times article on Cassell’s is cited in the L.A. Observed piece.

JUNE 16, 2012 –
Some 15 years of dining at Biba in Sacramento and never a bad meal. Tonight it was the always wonderful calamari fritti followed by perfectly cooked calves liver with carmelized onions and fried polenta.

JUNE 15, 2012 –
From my cousin Barry Wellman, who is visiting New York, comes a report that the Brooklyn Diner, which is on 57th St. in Manhattan, has opened a second location. This one on 43rd St. at Times Square. Barry says it’s even cooler than the original, at which we have eating for a long time. This one has a breakfast item Barry describes as the product of a mixed marriage between Irving and Gina. It’s two eggs baked in challah toast with marinara sauce, italian sausage, roasted peppers, onions, and crispy polenta. First time I ever ate at the original I ordered a chicken pot pie that came in a serving bowl large enough to … well, never mind. It was very large.

JUNE 14, 2012 –
Location, location, location … that may be what it’s all about with real estate, but when it comes to restaurant it ain’t necessarily so. Take the Atomic Cafein Costa Mesa. It’s tucked on a dead end street on the back side of John Wayne Airport. You might have trouble finding it if you knew where to look. But when I was there for lunch yesterday it was very busy. It’s almost like a private restaurant for employees of the office and industrial buildings that surround it. Good thing the owner – Rick – didn’t ask my advice before opening there. Anyway, it’s at 3100 Airway Ave. in Costa Mesa. I had a braised pulled pork sandwich on a very good roll. A large lunch at a decent price.

JUNE 13, 2012 –
An informative article about the demise of newspaper food sections and restaurant reviews in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. It includes a perspective on the situation at the L.A. Times and San Francisco Chronicle and discusses the dangers of anonymous reviews by faceless citizens at sources like Yelp and Zagats.
http://eater.com/archives/2012/06/13/across-the-nation-restaurant-critics-a-casualty-in-the-demise-of-newspapers.php

JUNE 12, 2012 –
Lukshon in Culver City is the latest restaurant recommendation added at atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com. It a delightful spot with a creative menu.

Panko crusted pork chops with parsley new potatoes and sauteed asparagus for dinner at home tonight. 2 gourmet cut pork chops bone in about 1 inch thick; 1/2 cup panko; 1/2 teasp salt; 1/4 teasp fresh ground black pepper; 1/4 cup milk; white of one egg; 3 tablesp lite olive oil. Heat the oil in a wide fry pan. Wash both side of the the pork chops in the milk, allow excess to drip off; wash chops in egg white, allow excess to drain; mix the salt and pepper into the panko and coat the chops in the panko. Put the chops in the oil at medium-low heat for seven minutes; turn chops for five minutes; increase heat to medium for one minute; turn chop for one minute. Steam six small new potatoes, drain; put one teasp of butter in the pot with the potatoes and sprinkle with parsley after the butter is melted.  Sautee six asparagus in extra virgin olive oil. That’s it.

JUNE 11, 2012 –
Could food magazines – the print kind – continue to exist if they no longer were allowed to use the word “best”? I’m sitting here looking at three magazines I received in the last three months. “Best New Chefs” is the tease on the front of the July edition of Food & Wine; Saveur promises “Best Steak in America: and Food & Wine in April offered “The Best California Wines & Recipes”. How can anyone know which steak is best without sampling every steak, or the best of anything else. That’s why here at Table Talk and at our sister website atLarrys.com, where we do restaurant recommendations, we make a point of shying away from the word “best”. The closest we come is a periodic feature called My Most Memorable Meal.

JUNE 8, 2012 –
Le Saint Amour, the French bistro in Culver City, has closed. Is it my imagination or is Culver City not able to sustain itself as a restaurant destination? Beacon closed a while back and now Le Saint Amour. Each was a fine spot in the Helms Bakery complex. Or could it be the location is the issue?

JUNE 7, 2012 –
A 66-foot concrete pier torn loose by the tsunami in Japan has landed on the coast of Oregon. So have some 2 million tons of other debris, leaving no doubt about which way the currents run. Anyone stick a Geiger Counter on that pier? Any one testing the waters of the Pacific shores for radiatactivity that may be coming along for the ride? Anybody testing the kelp, the plankton, the uni beds … are they picking up signs of migrated cesium from Fukushima with a 30 year half life. If they found it would they sound an alrert and risk killing the entire Pacific fishing industry? Or would government and nuclear industry spokespeople put a lid on it.

JUNE 4, 2012 –
So near and yet so far apart. That describes two restaurants at which we had dinner in the last three days. Both are in Santa Monica and they are within hefty walking distance of each other – maybe a mile apart. Both are primarily seafood places. But they couldn’t be more different in feel. The Lobster is at the foot of Santa Monica Pier. The energy in the place is electric. The bar is standing room only many nights. The dress tends toward beachside casual. The fun zone of the pier dominates the view. Crowds walking back and forth across the bridge from the street to the pier create a feeling of constant motion. Down the road a bit is One Pico at the Shutters Hotel. Here the pier is a distant view, with the colored lights of the ferris wheel pulling the eye. The view is sand and water and people walking dogs or riding bicycles on the winding path. The dress is more in line with a restaurant at a very upscale hotel. The food at each restaurant is very good. It all depends on your mood.

JUNE 3, 2012 –
I like a nice banana in my oatmeal for breakfast most days. Except at this time of year, when I can have bushels of blue berries. I love blue berries in my oatmeal  every morning. It’s more like oatmeal in my blue berries. Just picked up four pounds of blue berries at Cost Co. Not organic. But I’ll wash them well. I don’t do it year ’round because I don’t like blue berries imported from Central or South America. And, yes, I can taste the difference.

JUNE 2, 2012 –
No you don’t. High fructose corn syrup is one of the really bad actors in much of what is sweetened for sale these days. It’s gotten alot of negative publicity in the last year or two in the campaign against obesity. Never to be thwarted and instead of cleaning up their act, manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup asked the federal Food and Drug Administration for permssion to rename the product and sell it as as “corn sugar”. Not so fast, said the feds, it isn’t corn sugar and you can’t call it that.

Something new tonight at Kinarra Thai Restaurant. We had a big lunch at Domino’s Italian Grocery and wanted something lite for dinner. We decided to sit at the bar at Kinarra and share some small plates – dumplings, Saigon roll, fillet mignon on skewers, and fried wantons. Perfect. Just enough food and a wonderful after taste.

MAY 27, 2012 –
We were in the mood for tamales for lunch today. So I dashed over to the Studio City Farmers’ Market and the stand that is serving up a variety of absolutely delicious tamales. I bought four carnitas tamales with two different sauces to take home. On my way out I picked up a container of Brooks red cherries. You’ll understand more about this in the next couple of days, when I post an article on cherries at this online food magazine. Today is nine days until Election Day and the Studio City Farmers’ Market sits in one of the most hotly contested Congressional districts in the nation – California’s 30th District. At one end I ran into some of the people from the Howard Berman campaign. They were handing out re-usable shopping bags. At the other end Brad Sherman’s people were handing out his signature combs, which he uses to joke about his bald head. More people seemed interested in the shopping bags than the combs. Not a very scientific poll, or even a poll at all. But fun.

MAY 26, 2012 –
Sad news. Fallen star. Tre Venezie, the Northern Italian restaurant in Pasadena with the Michelin Star on the wall, has closed. It was one of the recommended resrtaurants at atLarrys.com. The space is now occupied by a Basque type tapas restaurant that Jonathan Gold reviews in today’s L.A. Times.

MAY 24, 2012 –
Copper River sockeye salmon for dinner at home tonight. Bought it, never been frozen, at the supper market onthe way home. There was a time when I didn’t know there was a difference between various types of salmon. Then my son John and his wife settled into the Seattle area. Now I have learned Almost Everything You Ever Would Want to Know About the Salmon on Your Plate. You can read about how sockeye differers from king salmon by opening the salmon feature on this page.

MAY 21, 2012 –
Don’t tell my cardiologist. Jennifer had a request for dinner last night. So, I made Yorkshire Chicken. It used to be a regular on our menu but I hadn’t made it in 20 years or more. Chicken with Yorkshire pudding. All that butter, flour, chicken dripping and chicken skin. Jennifer skipped the skin. I didn’t. I figure how much more damage could I do. It was delicious but it probabliy will be a long time before I do it again.

MAY 20, 2012 –
Make sense of this one: a mother and son enter the super market. She looks to be in her early 30s; the boy appears to be about 5 or 6. She takes one of the wipies the store provides and uses it to wipe down the handles and sides of the shopping cart. Then she puts the child in the cart, heads for the deli counter and puts two packages of nirtite-laden hot dogs in the basket. So, it doesn’t matter what we put inside the kid as long as we keep the outside germ free?

MAY 17, 2012 –
A twofer today. Lunch at Barney;s Gourmet Hamburgers and dinner at Panzanella, both in Sherman Oaks CA and both recommended at atLarrys.com. Passed on a sandwich for lunch and had a very good Chinese chicken salad. For dinner it was Panzanella’s excellent mushroom soup followed by spinach and ricotta cheese stuffed ravioli in a perfect tomato and garlic sauce. With Jennifer back on her feet after her knee replacement surgery, we are back among ’em at dinner time. Cooking at home for three weeks without repeating a meal was fun. But it’s good to be back on the playground.

MAY 14, 2012 –
Melisse was jam packed tonight for a seven-course foie gras dinner to raise funds for the effort to delay or repeal the ban on foie gras is scheduled to go into effect in California July 1. California will then be the only place in the U.S. where foie gras is banned. Top chefs from seven different restaurants were on hand to prepare the food.

MAY 13, 2012 –
In keeping with our long-held habit of staying away from restaurants on days like Mother’s Day, Valentines Day, etc. we opted for brunch at home today with nephew Bryan, niece Lisa, and their three children – Cassidy, Justin and Nathan. It will be a lox and bagels breakfast. Lox and smoked cod from Brent’s Deli in Northridge CA and bagels and cream cheese from Western Bagel in Van Nuys. You can read my recommendation of Brent’s at http://www.atlarrys.com. Western Bagel was the winner of the plain water bagel category of our bagel taste-off last year. Interested in bagels. Go to the menu at the right side of this page. Click on Ethnic Dining and then Jewish. Look for “Bagels Aren’t Jewish Anymore”. Also take a look at “And the Winners Are” for taste-off results. Want to read more about Brent’s and delis. Click on Food Books and read the review of “Save the Deli.”

MAY 12, 2012 –
I just had my eighth different type of sausage for lunch today at Brats Brothers in Sherman Oaks CA. This time it was the Bavarian – beer infused smoked pork. On their great rolls – not buns – it was fabulous. I still haven’t had one there that I wouldn’t want to reprise.

MAY 11, 2012 –
Just thinkin’, and I don’t know why. I stop at Gelson’s market on the way home from work probably four days a week, sometimes five. And then again once or twice on the weekend. It gives me the flexibility to decide during the day what I want to make for dinner and then buy it on the way home. Chicken and meats are unfrozen. They’ll cut to order for me. I can decide which fish looks best and hasn’t been frozen. Vegis are always fresher. Often, it makes me think of my mother. We moved into Burbank CA in 1950. There was a fairly nice market around the corner and one block down. But a year later the first Gelson’s opened at the intersection of Victory Blvd. and Hollywood Way – about a mile from home. Mom was hooked. When she would send me out on a quick shopping trip, I could walk around the corner to Spector’s or ride my bike to Gelson’s depending on what was needed. Now, 61 years later, Gelson’s has grown into a chain of stores and I’m still shopping at one of them.

MAY 10, 2012 –
Guessing game. Anyone who’s been reading this online food magazine for any time at all should get this one. We were housebound for dinner for three weeks during Jennifer’s recovery from knee replacement surgery. This week the doctor green lighted her to go out for dinner, wine and all. Where do you think we went the first night?

MAY 9, 2012 –
Want to join me at a six-course Foie Gras dinner created by some of California’s top chefs the evening of Monday, May 14 at Melisse in Santa Monica and Lemon Moon in West Los Angeles. It’s called “The Whole Duck” and it’s being held to raise funds for the fight against the California Foie Gras ban that is scheduled to go into effect July 1. I’m planning to be at Melisse, one of my two favorite restaurants in the state. Tickets for either event are $200. That includes wine, tax and gratuity and a donation to C.H.E.F.S., the organization spearheading the fight against the ban. Foie Gras and duck appear on every course on the menu. Tickets can be ordered only a www.chefsmelisse.eventbrite.com. Once you’ve bought your tickets you’ll need to phone the restaurant for a reservation time.

MAY 8, 2012 –
This month is the seventh anniversary of Boss Sushi on La Cienega in Beverly Hills. 10% off on all sushi before 8 p.m. each night. Go to http://www.atlarrys.com and read the recommendation for this restaurant. The sushi is very good and I don’t know of a place for a greater variety of excellent cut rolls.

MAY 5, 2012 –
He may have won a Pulitzer Prize, but L.A. Times food writer Jonathan Gold would flunk out of any journalism school I attended. He may have broken his own recent record today with a sentence that ran on for 89 words. There are others at 85 words,  60 words and 54 words. My J school teachers and professors preached the 26-word rule – no sentence should run longer than 26 words. There’s a legend – who knows if it’s true – that a NY Times copy editor once received a story from one of their reporters with a series of sentences that exceeded 26 words, some by a long way. So the editor just put a period after every 26th word and capitalized the next word. Gold seems to know the location of every punctuation key on his computer except the period. One paragraph today is one sentence that is 85 words long with seven commas, two hyphens, two semi-colons, and a colon. Other than that, the restaurant he reviewed sounds like a place I would like to try. It’s Tar & Roses in Santa Monica. www.latimes.com/food

MAY 4, 2012 –
Southern California Edision officials have done something almost unheard of in the annals of nuclear power generation. They have admitted there is a safety risk to operating the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Diego County. Today’s L.A. Times reports utility officials are thinking of asking permission to restart the plant at less than full power to lessen the chances of a repeat of the pipe failures and leaks that have kept the plant shut down since January. It’s a marked deviation from the standard “no danger to the public” assurances nuclear offials usually parrot. Click on over to our article on the lessons of Fukushima to learn of the potential risks California’s two nuclear plants pose to the state’s agriculture.

MAY 3, 2012 –
INTIMIDATED? The chefs opposing the impending ban on production and sale of foie gras in California appear to have failed in their  search for a legislator willling to carry a bill to  repeal or delay implementation of the ban. I spoke with a few legislators, who might ordinarily have considered working with the chefs, and they all begged off. Their reasons came down to unwillingness to be subjected to what they perceive as tactics of intimidation by backers of the ban. Today the leadership of both houses of the legislature said they will not permit the issue to be brought up now, with another fight over the state budget looming in the next several weeks. It appears the ban will go into effect as schedule July 1.

MAY 2, 2012 –
BUSTED. Wolfgang Puck, one of the nation’s most famous chefs, has been busted. Puck has been a champion of the impendng ban on the production and sale of foie gras in California. He went so far as sending two letters to California chefs, urging them to support the ban. Puck has claimed he has not served foie gras at his restaurants since 2007. Now, the San Francisco Chronicle has published an article claiming foie gras is served at the Singapore branch of Puck’s Cut restaurant and that service of foie gras is permitted upon request at private functions at Puck restaurants. Puck has refused to comment, but his public relations department has admitted the dish is served at private functions at his restaurants upon request, according to Examiner.com. One chef told Table Talk atLarrys.com they have copies of invoices for Puck from Hudson Valley Farms in New York. A full-length article on the brewing foie gras war will be published at Table Talk in the next few days.

MAY 1, 2012 –
Foie Gras wars are brewing in Sacramento as 100 of the state’s top chef’s launch a belated effort to repeal the ban set to go into effect July 1. The chefs have hired some high-powered lobbying help. At the same time John Burton, the legislator who wrote the law seven years ago, is fighting back. Still powerful as head of the state Democratic Party and a presence in the Capitol, Burton reportedly is making impassioned phone calls to legislators in both parties trying to head off any attempt to repeal the bill or delay it’s implementation. We’ll have a more comprehensive report in a couple of days.

APRIL 30, 2012 –
Last night was our 14th dinner at home since Jennifer was released from the hospital after her knee replacement surgery. 14 dinners without a repeat and only one take out. Last year, after her hip replacement, we went 30 consecutive nights without repeating a dinner. I won’t make it that far this year because of a busy work schedule. In the meantime there probably are a whole string of restaurants wondering what happened to us. I don’t think we’ve gone this long, while we were in town, without dinner at Panzanella since the hip surgery a year ago.

APRIL 29, 2012 –
It was the photo on the front of this week’s Parade Magazine insert in our Sunday paper that caught my eye – three chefs including Cat Cora. The story, How Top Chefs Stay Slim, seemed interesting. It isn’t. It’s just the same old stuff about exercising and careful eating. What could have been a fun article was just palaver. At the back of the magazine there is an article about actor Zac Efron’s recipe for Santa Maria-Style Barbecue. Efron is the star of the new movie The Lucky One. Just one thing wrong with the full page piece. It isn’t even close to Santa Maria Barbecue. Most of the flavoring ingredients come out of a jar. The beans are “canned ranch-style beans” instead of pinquitos. For the authentic recipes for Santa Maria Barbecue, click on the link above.

APRIL 28, 2012 –
DOOMED. Are the L.A. Times food pages doomed. I know. I said I wouldn’t pick on the Times food pages anymore. And for a couple of weeks I kept that promise. But they are an embarassment for our hometown newspaper and today … Three pages with only one advertisement. And that’s for a furniture store. The markets, restaurants, kitchen stores – they’ve all given up. And without advertising no newspaper can long survive. So, what’s next? Save money by eliminating the cost of paper and ink and let go of the staff? 20% of today’s food pages are given over to an article about tatooed chefs. And the online version of the Times food pages are a horrible hodgepodge. Once again, more content at this online food magazine than in today’s Times food pages.

APRIL 26, 2012 –
That cow with mad cow disease, it was a dairy cow and the disease cannot be passed to humans through milk. So, back to the steak house. In the meantime the talk shows have had a field day with debates between consumer groups and the cattlemen’s association people. The consumer groups have taken the opportunity to tell us how bad inspection is in the U.S. and how good it is in Japan and England. The cattlemen’s association says it proves who well the regulatory process is working. The truth probably is somewhere in between.

APRIL 25, 2012 –
Awoke this a.m. to a report that mad cow disease has been found in one dead cow in California. The cow apparently died of natural causes and was at a rendering plant when the disease was discovered. Cattle industry representatives reasure the discovery proves the inspection system is working. Certainly did in this instance. But apparently only about 40,000 cows are tested in the U.S. each year. Next step is to identify from where the cow came and keep a close eye on it’s known associates. Stop eating beef? Not unless you live your life in a constant state of paranoia.

APRIL 24, 2012 –
A little slice of heaven – that’s Gemini Fish Market in Issaquah WA. Today’s email informs the store has “sashimi toro-grade Pacific bluefin tuna.” It goes on to say, “Do not confuse this with ‘toro’, which is giant bluefin belly … This is fresh Pacific bluefin that is graded ‘toro’ because of the big fat content and creamy texture.” So, I learned something new: toro-grade is not necessarily toro. Now, can I find toro-grade Pacific bluefin at any of my local fish markets. There are times when I am very jealous of my son John and his family. They live about a mile from Gemini Fish Market.

APRIL 21, 2012 –
Another institution gone. The 100-year-old Sam Wo Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown will close tonight and not re-open. The reason, according to today’s L.A. Times, is the high cost and difficulty of bringing the aged facility up to health and safety code standards.  The restaurant is reputed to be the oldest in Chinatown. Owners plan to appeal the health department findings but say they hold out little hope that the restaurant could be brought up to code at an affordable price.

APRIL 17, 2012 –
Unless you can spot the difference between red snapper and tillapia, there’s a good chance you have been sold the cheaper fish and charged for the more expensive. Some 74 restaurants and grocery stores were surveyed. DNA testing allegedly found up to 100% of some fish are being mislabeled and sold as something they aren’t. See what you think about the credibility of the testing. Read the L.A. Times article in today’s paper – http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-seafood-fraud-report-20120417,0,7409070.story

APRIL 16, 2012 –
The It’s Our Right to Know campaign is trying to qualify an initiative measure for the November California ballot that would require companies to lable foods that contain geneically modified organisms – GMOs. They need to turn in 560,000 valid signtures by April 22 and want to collect 850,000 signatures to be safe. For more information or to get involved, the web site is LabelGMOs.org.

APRIL 15, 2012 –
The 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational is scheduled at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Saturday, April 28, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $15. Want to enter the contest? That’s $50. Rules and entry forms as well as ticketing are available at http://grilledcheeseinvitational.com

APRIL 12, 2012 –
News from Gemini Fish Market in Issaquah WA – Columbia River Spring Chinook and Alaska White King salmon are running wild and the prices are dropping. Ask your fish monger. Read ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE SALMON ON YOUR PLATE above.

APRIL 11, 2012 –
This time it’s Food & Wine. The cover story is “BEST RECIPES from the world’s best travelers”. And then there’s “BEST NEW PASTRY CHEFS and their simplest recipes” on the same cover.  There’s that word again – “best”, three times on the same cover. GRRRR. (See previous entry for the rant.)

APRIL 9, 2012 –
“BEST STEAK IN AMERICA” – that’s the cover story on the latest issue of Saveur. Come on. Isn’t it time to stop proclaiming things as the best. Best steak, best sushi bar, best martini, best pizza … There is no such thing as the best and anyone who buys a magazine because they think they will learn what is the best gets what they deserve. The best is a subjective judgment. How can anyone proclaim anything as being the best without accounting for taste and without having sampled all available options? And tastes change. That’s why we shun the use of the word at this online magazine and in the restaurant recommendations we publish at atLarrys.com. We have a feature called My Most Memorable Meal because we think that makes more sense. My most memorable meal may or may not have been the best meal I’ve ever eaten. There have been so many great meals I have no idea which was the best. As for the most memorable, it took some thought but I finally zeroed in on a lunch at Al Valu in the hills overlooking Lago Como in northern Italy.

APRIL 8, 2012 –
KNBC-TV in Los Angeles reported on its 11 o’clock news broadcast last night that scientists, who found elevated levels of radiation in kelp growing off the coast of Southern California after the Fukushim nuclear plant disaster, now want to study possible elevated radiation levels in fish in the area. We published an article a year ago about the potential contamination of Pacific albacore, which would migrate from the coast of Japan to the Pacific Northwest. You can read the full KNBC report at http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Scientist-Study-Nuclear-Contamination-Fish-Kelp-Japan-Tsunami-Ocean-California-Shores-146359685.html. You can read our most recent article about the threat to California’s agriculture and the nation’s food supply posed by the state’s two nuclear power plants in the article about San Onofre at this online food magazine.

APRIL 6, 2012 –
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing is going to take on ketchup for the title of all-American condiment. A new version of the dressing is being released in a ketchup-like bottle with the slogan “The New Ketchup – for Everything Topping & Dip.” Clorox, the owner of Hidden Valley, proclaims: “prefect accompaniment to your burgers and fries, replace ketchup and barbecue sauce …” The new product will be thicker and creamier than the original but with the same taste – except for a spicier salsa version. They have a long way to go to catch up.

APRIL 4, 2012 –
In case you hadn’t noticed, California-grown asparagus and artichokes are in the stores. I had some big, fat, delicious sauted (in olive oil) asparagus tonight with a moist and tasty pan seared piece of king salmon.  I remember a bunch of years ago – sometime in the mid-1980s – I was co-managing an election campaign in Monterey County. I had to go up there a few times each month. I would take an empty suit case or flight bag with me. On the way to the airport to come home I would stop at a roadside stand and load up on fresh picked, local asparagus and artichokes. When I got home, I would parcel them out to family and friends. Is that locally-grown ahead of its time. It wasn’t as if I was having them shipped. I was up there anyway. Also, last week I saw the first-of-the-season domestic – California-grown – blueberries in the market. They’re still expensive. But they’re here.

APRIL 3, 2012 –
One of Japan’s best known and loved delicacies may be finished for a long time to come. Shitake mushrooms, which are grown in the forests near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, absorb radioactive cesium from the soil. They are high on the list of hundreds of food products the Japanese government is warning people to avoid because they exceed safe radiation limits. Read about the threat nuclear power poses to California’s agriculture and its role in the national and world food chain in the article featured on this magazine – Leaky Pipes Keep San Onofre Nuclear Plant Shutdown.

APRIL 1, 2012 (NO FOOLING) –
“Studies have snown that dark chockolate ma help keep high blood pressure down, your blood flowing, and your heart healthy.” No, that message is not an April Fool joke and it didn’t originate at the Godiva Chocolate factory. It comes from Kaiser Permanente, the giant health care operation that likes to stress prevention of illness. You can look in on the Kaiser heart health page at http://www.kp.org/heart. The notice about chocolate, which I received in the mail as a Kaiser member, concludes of course with “moderation is advised.”

MARCH 31, 2012 –
Don’t be shocked, but dinner tonight was at home. I had the time so I cooked. I did chicken in a morel mushroom sauce with mashed potatoes and sauted asparagus. It’s an original recipe I developed several months ago. Click on over to Recipes on the right side of this home page. Then click on Kitchen Quikies and scroll down to Chicken With Morels. Never fear, though. We’ll be back out among ’em come tomorrow night.

*****
Chaos continues at the L.A. Times food pages. I know, I said I was through picking on the Times. This week it’s just three pages plus a large photo. No Russ Parsons. S. Irene Virbila reduced to three paragraphs – one for each of three bakeries and no restaurant review – and Jonathan Gold is back with his long, long sentences. One today hit 66 words. OK. Now I’ll try to lay off and accept the fact that this is going to be our future.

MARCH 30, 2012 –
I’ve been eating frogs’ legs most of my life. My son, John, ordered them at the old Windsor Room in L.A. when he was 6 years old and the waiter couldn’t contain himself. I had an appetizer portion of about a dozen frogs’ legs tonight at Le Sanglier in Tarzana. This fine French restaurant serves up some of the best frogs’ legs I’ve ever eaten. They aren’t on the menu every night. But if you don’t see them, ask. Read my full recommendation of Le Sanglier at atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 29, 2012 –
California State Assemblymember Bill Monning has dropped his legislation to keep food trucks further away from schools when children may be present. In proposing the legislation, Monning said quality and gourmet food trucks don’t look to school children for customers. It’s the high-fat, high-sodium, junk-food trucks that park outside schools at lunch time and after school, he said. But many food truck chefs lined up against the bill. Monning said he dropped the bill because he didn’t have enough votes to pass it. He promised to work in other ways to combat juvenile obesity.

MARCH 28, 2012 –
The almond trees in the central valley are blossoming and it’s beautiful. I find the central valley – yes, the I5 – to be inspiring. It is one of the world’s richest and most productive sources of food. California feeds the nation and the world. But since Fukushima I can’t help but be mindful of the threat to all this posed by two nuclear power plants that are closer to our agricultural heartland than the range of radioactive contamination after the Japanese accident. Click on Article in the menu at the right side of the page and then click on Fukushima to read an indepth article on the nuclear threat to California agriculture.

MARCH 27, 2012 –
Dinner tonight at Biba in Sacramento, one of my two favorite restaurants in California. The food that comes out of Biba’s kitchen always is spectacular. It’s the only place where I will order calamari fritti. The gnocchi is as good as I’ve ever tasted – better than most. I had sauted sweet breads tonight followed by Italian lamb stew – lots of tender tasty pieces of lamb in a delightful, thick stew of vegetables with white beans. It isn’t just the food that makes Biba one of my favorites. The room is elegant yet comfortable and most nights Biba herself is strolling the floor to greet guests.

MARCH 25, 2012 –
There’s a bountiful early harvest of blue crabs being hauled up at Chesapeake Bay, according to a report in the L.A. Times this morning out of Newport News, VA. Seems the warmer than usual winter kept the water warmer than usual and that has sent the crabs in search of food several weeks earlier than usual. And they are finding all the food they want in the crab pots.

MARCH 24, 2012 –
It’s time for me to stop complaining about what has happened to the former food section of the L.A. Times. It has shrunk just as almost every other section of every other paper that hasn’t folded altogether has shrunk. As for the Times, they are now food pages, not a food section. Last week it was three pages plus a front page devoted to promotion. This week it’s simply three pages and just seven articles or features. As I have pointed out before, we have more content on this online food magazine than the Times has in it’s print pages. And I find the Times’ online food effort to be jumbled, confusing and not graphically pleasing. But all that, while it may be true, also is self-serving. What the Times pages lack in quantity, is somewhat offset by quality. Noelle Carter’s piece on cheese making is interesting and something I’m going to try. S. Irene Virbila’s review of a new restaurant in Baldwin Hills – Post & Beam – makes me want to try the place. Jonathan Gold still can’t seem to find the period key on his keyboard. This week’s longest sentence – 68 words, with several others eclipsing the 50-word mark. Whatever happened to the journalism school directive of no sentence longer than 26 words. And with that, I will try to stay away from the subject of the L.A. Times food pages in future weeks.

MARCH 23, 2012 –
My favorite dinner companion … my favorite companion is just outside of Seattle, visiting our son, daughter-in-law and grand children. I’m working long and tiring days and don’t feel like cooking when I get home. Last night I went to Panzanella in Sherman Oaks by myself and had a Cesar salad and gnocchi verdi. Tonight I tried a Japanese restuarant in our neighborhood – in the same mall as Kennara Thai. The place was packed and tables were  re-seated quickly as diners finished and left. I didn’t know there were so many Japanese living our our neighborhood. Probably three-quarters of the people at Kyushu Ramen were Japanese. It’s a restaurant in two rooms with three menus – a ramen menu, a Japanese menu and a sushi menu. Tonight I had a sea weed salad and six types of sushi. I’ll go back a time or two before deciding if I want to recommend it at atLarrys.com, the restaurant recommendation web site. In the meantime, you can read recommendations of Kennara and Panzanella at http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 21, 2012 –
I expanded my repertoire at Brats Brothers Gourmet Sausage Grill in Sherman Oaks today. At lunch I tried the smoked pork Black Forest sausage. It was very good, as have been every sausage I’ve eaten at Brats. I was still hungry. So, I had a Hot Italian, which I had tried before. This is getting confusing – this business of trying to decide which is my favorite. I think it just might be the Hungarian. Read a recommendation of Brats Brothers at atLarrys.com, the restaurant recommendation web site. http://www.atlarrys.com.

MARCH 20, 2012 –
Three weeks without sushi … it may be a record of sorts. The drought ended tonight at Boss Sushi in Beverly Hills. My friend Amanda and I may have been the only customers in the place over 40, except for the guy sitting next to me at the bar. Chef Koji told us they had just one reservation for the night, yet the place was packed. Lots of walk ins.  The abashiri scallops are Boss are the only scallop sushi I will order anywhere. Tonight’s uni was super. Read a recommendation for Boss Sushi at http://www.atlarrys.com.

MARCH 19, 2012 –
If a doctor ever says, “Nuts to you”, pay close attention. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine says eating a handful of nuts each day can lower your blood cholesterol. 25 people ate 2.3 ounces of nuts each day. Their bad cholesterol dropped 7.4 percent and their triglycerides – the amount of fat in their blood – dropped 10.2 percent. The nuts they ate included walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamias. Some of them appear on lists of nuts to avoid on a low cholesterol diet. Go figure. As nuts are high in fat, the study advises to factor the calories into your daily total.

MARCH 18, 2012 –
Lunchtime at Art’s Deli in Studio City on a Sunday and the place is packed. The look and the buzz reminds of some of the great old Manhattan delis, when there were great Manhattan delis. Residents of the valley are twice blessed when it comes to delis. Art’s and Brent’s in Northridge are as good as they come. I was at Art’s for lunch a few weeks ago and it happened to be Art’s birthday. He was at a table at the back with some friends and we all sang Happy Birthday for him. “Every sandwich is a work of Art” is the slogan of this 50+ year old deli and it’s no overstatement. Read recommendations for Art’s and Brent’s at atLarrys.com, the restaurant recommendation website – http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 17, 2012 –
Week II update on the L.A. Times food pages in the new Saturday section. It can’t be called a food section because it’s only three pages of content plus one page of promotion. So, we’ll call it the food pages. But what’s there is worth reading. A nice and informative piece by Betty Hallock on the transformation taking place on Sawtelle Blvd., S. Irene Virbila has an interesting piece on how food fads come and go from the restaurant scene, and Jonathan Gold offers a solid article dining in Koreatown. While the quality is good, the quantity can’t rightfully be called quantity. There are just four articles plus a few sidebars. We have nearly triple that content right here at Table Talk atLarrys.com.

*****
The Pixies are back. Those most wonderful of tangerines are back in the markets. I saw the first batch while shopping today. These are the tangerines that succeeded against great odds. You can see an essay on the history and challenges faced in developing these sweet, seedless, late season tangerines by clicking on Essays in the menu on the home page of this online food magazine. Then click on It’s Pixie Time.

*****
This time it was the Hungarian sausage at Brats Brothers in Sherman Oaks. These are a bit more spicy that some of the others I’ve tried. They bring a nice warmth to the tongue and leave a pleasant afterglow. I’d probably rank the Hungarian right below the Hot Italian on my list of favorites. Read my recommendation of Brats Brothers at the restaurant recommendation website atLarrys.com  – http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 16, 2012 –
The branzino at Panzanella is consistently outstanding – either the whole fish grilled and filleted tableside, or fillets as I had it last night. Three nice size pieces with the skin beautifully browned, topped with a morel mushroom sauce and served with an assortment of vegetables and mashed potatoes. I started with a half order of Panzanella d’ farrow, a varitation on the more traditional Panzanella salad. This one is served with a slight chill, near room temperature. It’s perfectly cooked farrow with chopped tomato, cucumber and onion with basil in olive oil and a little balsemic vinegar. A full order is enough for two, so I have a half order. Read my enthusiastic recommendation of this fine San Fernando Valley restaurant at http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 15, 2012 –
Here’s a tip if you end up at Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers and are trying to stay off the red meat and fat. The Barney’s Chicken sandwich is one of the better grilled chicken breast sandwiches around. Problem for those of use trying to be health conscious is that the fries are so great – skinny or thick, aah. Read the recommenation for Barney’s Bourmet Hamburgers at http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 14, 2012 –
I had been hearing good things about The Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica for a year or so. Last night, we went there with our cousins, Barry and Beverly. I had a Colorado rack of lamb that was as good as any rack of lamb I’ve ever eaten. The Penthouse is a high energy bar with restaurant tables on either side. The bar crowd is young, well-dressed and alive. There’s a great ocean view at the tables to one side of the bar.

MARCH 13, 2012 –
Angelini Osteria on Beverly Blvd. is my favorite lunch place in L.A. I was there today with visiting cousins Barry and Beverly. We shared four appetizers and it was plenty of food. That’s the way I like to do lunch at Angelini. At dinner I’ll go for the bigger, heavier dishes. Today it was octopus, bone marrow gnocchetti, sweet Italian sausages and sea scallops. I got there from my office in the Valley in 15 minutes. I don’t know what’s up with L.A. traffic the last week or so, but I’m just flying around town – getting place 15 to 30 minutes early. Read my recommendation of Angelini Osteria at http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 12, 2012 –
One of the most recognizable men in the country walks into a restaurant and hardly a head turns. That’s life in L.A. and dinner at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica. Not only is he recognizable, he’s also seven feet tall. Hard to miss basketball great Kareem Abdul Jabbar, but in this town and in this place he drew little more than casual glances as he walked through the room with two other people. Then everyone quickly returned to their lobsters in Shanghai sauce, crispy spinach, grilled lamb chops, black cod and all the other unique specialties of this wonderful restaurant. My friend and State Senator Rod Wright says it’s his favorite restaurant in the world, and he’s eaten at some great ones. Rod’s recommendation of Chinois appears at atLarrys.com, the restaurant recommendation website. We were there tonight with our cousins Barry and Beverly Wellman from Toronto. It was a reprise of an excellent meal we had at Chinois with them several years ago. http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 11, 2012 –
L.A. restaurants have turned amuse-bouche into an extra course. Last night at Melisse we were served four items before we ever ordered our dinner. Tonight at Providence it was three items before ordering. Are the chefs showing off; are they bored; are they experimenting? Restaurants run on a pretty tight profit margin. So there must be something else going on with this business of giving away free food. It isn’t really free, of course. The price is built into the menu items. Once upon a time amuse-bouche was a novelty that made the diner feel special. Now, I wonder if customers have come to expect it. Anyway, the cheese cart at Providence is sensational and the servings are generous. The Ugly Bunch cold, raw appetizer is fun – geoduck, abalone and uni in a smoked creme fraiche. For my main, I had turbot for the first time in a long, long time. I love that fish, but it has all but vanished from the markets and menus.

*****
I stopped in at Hugo’s Tacos in Studio City for lunch today. For a place with difficult access and egress, this little food stand does an very big business. I don’t know that I’ve ever been there and not found a line at the order window. But they move quickly and the waits are never very long. I had my favorite today – carnitas burrito with tomatillo and jalapeno salsa.

MARCH 10, 2012 –
The crowd at Melisse tonight seemed younger than usual. The house was pretty full, with a number of tables turning over for more than one seating. Nice to see that during what are supposed to be difficult economic times. But, as we’ve become aware over the last few years, the times are more difficult for some than for others. Tempted as I was to go for the Foie for All seven course foie gras menu, I opted for some restraint. I did have the seared foir gras – excellent. That’s my favorite way to eat foie gras. We’ve got to do something to repeal the ban. As of July 1 it will be illegal to produce or serve foir gras in California. No other state has such a ban. But we don’t start out with a very big constituency to organize a repeal. Less than one percent of the population eats foie gras.  Chicago banned foie gras several years ago. Then the restaurant association rose up and succeeded in having it repealed. So, where is the restaurant association in California. They fought like hell against smoking bans a few years back. Why not fight the foie gras ban now. Melisse is one of my two favorite restaurants in California. You can read my full  recommendation at the restaurant recommendation website Table Talk atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com

*****

After all the hype and hoopla, the L.A. Times new SATURDAY section made it’s debut today. The food section, transplanted from it’s old stand-alone Thursday position, occupies the first four pages of the new section, although one of those pages is a full-page super market ad. What’s left is three pages that contain just seven articles. S. Irene Virbila’s review of Wolfgang Puck’s revival of the restaurant at the Bel-Air Hotel tells me I want to get there as quickly as possible. Any place with guinea fowl on the menu is going to call to me. But just seven articles in the food section of a paper in a major metropolitan area? We have more content than that every day at the online food magazine you are reading right now.

*****
MARCH 9, 2012 –
The energy on a Friday night at The Lobster at the foot of Santa Monica Pier is electric. It is one of the qunitessential restaurants of Los Angeles – young, happy, pretty people gathering to have a good time in the balmy pre-spring air with the Pacific Ocean just a few steps away. Dinner at The Lobster tonight was grilled Spanish octopus and steamed Maine lobster. Jennifer had New Zealand cockles and a beet salad. We were joined by cousins Barry and Beverly Wellman, who are visiting from Toronto. Last summer they showed us some of their favorite eateries in Toronto. Now it’s out turn. Read my recommendation of The Lobster at atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com. You also can read about our dining experiences in Toronto by clicking on Travel in the menu of this online magazine and then go to A Food Lover’s Journey.

*****
Good on you, L.A. Times. Starting this weekend L.A. Times no longer will award stars as part of it restaurant review rating system. The reasons they give all are solid. I can’t count the times I would read a review that added up to “I won’t go there” only to see the place get two or more stars. They were silly simplifications of often complex and thoughtful writing. This brings the Times in line with the restaurant recommendation website atLarrys.com, where there not only are no stars, but there are no negative reviews. The policy of the site is “if it isn’t good enough to recommend to a friend, relative or colleague, we won’t list it. You go to this site to learn of places to eat, not place not to eat.” It’s http://www.atlarrys.com

*****
Santa Monica is about to become the culinary center of our lives for a few days. Our cousins are arriving from Toronto for a visit today. Its starts with dinner tonight at The Lobster at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier. Saturday it will be foie gras and more at Melisse. Monday we’re book at Chinois on Main and Tuesday it will be my first visit to The Penthouse at The Handley. Squeezed in Sunday will be Providence and lunch Tuesday is at Angelini Osteria. The Lobster, Melisse, Chinois and Angelini are all recommended at atLarrys.com. You can read about them at http://www.atlarrys.com

*****
MARCH 8, 2012 –
Sunday is the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. This online food magazine was the first publication to write of the threat the plant posed to the world’s food supply. That was just two weeks after the accident. We have done a total of three pieces on the subject. The most recent one draws on the lessons of Fukushima to discuss the threat to California’s agricultural economy and the national and world food supply  posed by possible earthquakes near San Onofre or Diable Canyon nuclear plants. Now, EnviroReporter.com has a piece on how radiation from Japan has reached California since the Fukushima disasters. You can read it at http://www.enviroreporter.com/2012/02/beta-watch/

*****

The chicken chow mein at Kannara in Van Nuys is among the best I’ve ever eaten. It’s a Thai restaurant but this chow mein reminds me of what I used to get at a kid at the Chinese restaurant around the corner from where we lived in Brooklyn. The sui mai like dumplings also are a treat. Read about Kannara at the restaurant recommendation website atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com

*****
Once there was a time, when I waited all week for the Thursday L.A. Times. That was the day I could read George Skelton’s political column and David Shaw in the food section. I still look forward to George’s columns twice a week. But every Thursday morning since David died in 2005 I have been reminded of him, when the Times arrived without his writing in the food section. In the intervening years the Times food section has become a ghost of its former self. As of today it all went away. Today the L.A. Times food section is no more. It has vanished to be merged into some mutation of a Saturday section. Yes, there is the promise of the addition of Jonathan Gold’s writing and reviews. But even with Gold on board, a major newspaper without a meaningful food section is an embarassment.

MARCH 7, 2012
California State Assemblymember Bill Monning has a bill to prohibit food trucks from operating within 1,500 of a school between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. It’s AB 1678. Critics claim it would damage the burgeoning food truck movement. Supporters point out gourmet food trucks don’t park at schools to sell their high end wares. They say it’s only the old style junk food “roach coaches” and seek out student customers and their presence counters the efforts by schools to provide healthier diets to students. The bill is awaiting hearing in the Assembly Health Committee. You can read the bill at the Assembly webside – http://assembly.ca.gov/. The L.A. Times had an article on the bill this week. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-food-trucks-20120304,0,4188494.story

MARCH 6, 2012
Of all the things I’ve had to give up, or cut back on, since my cardiac bypass surgery, sausages have been one of the most difficult. So, I allow myself a treat every so often. Like tonight at Brats Brothers in Sherman Oaks. I had the Hungarian, which was excellent. The skin snapped with each bight. It’s a pork sausage, and oh, those rolls. Jennifer had the hot Italian, which isn’t at all overly spicy. I had that one the first time I visited Brats and it’s still my favorite. The Hungarian now ranks second favorite. The German and Polish, which I’ve had on earlier visits, also are wonderful. We shared an order of fries – plenty for two – and a side of Grandma’s saurkraut. My Hofbrau lager had a nice malty flavor. Jennifer loved her Spaten lager. Read my recommendation of Brats Brothers at atLarrys.com, the restaurant recommendation website – http://www.atlarrys.com
* * * * *
Dinner last night at Panzanella in Sherman Oaks. Love to see a restaurant busy on a Monday night. Many years ago, at a long-gone Italian restaurant called Virgilio’s, I learned to appreciate a good piece of grilled white fish with a side of spaghetti instead of vegetables. Grilled white fish was on the specials menu last night. So, I ordered it and asked them to hold the vegis and bring me a side of spag with olive oil and garlic. After an aranchini appetizer and with a glass of barolo, this was wonderful. Yes. Red wine with fish. So, sue me. You can read my recommendation of Panzanella at atLarrys.com, the restaurant recommendation website – http://www.atlarrys.com

MARCH 5, 2012
Ricio Camacho is a mole genius. But when it comes to business sense, the jury is still out.
Ricio first drew attention with her rich variety of sauses and Moles La Tia in East L.A. In 2010 she moved on to become head chef at the more upscale La Huasteca in Lynwood’s wonderful Plaza Mexico. A year later she was gone from there. Then, late in 2011 she opened her own place, Ricio’s Mole De Los Dioses in Bell CA. And then Jan. 14, 2012, she opened a second place with the same name, this oone in Sun Valley CA.
We were at the Sun Valley restaurant Friday night (March 2) and things were pretty grim. Our party of four and another party of two were the only people in the place at 8 p.m. The food was excellent. But if things don’t pick up this place isn’t going to make it. I hear the Bell location is struggling also. In both cases the question is whether the restaurant is too pricey for the neighborhood. The Bell site is in a heavily industrial area. The Sun Valley restaurant is in a corner of the San Fernando Valley that is not on the radar for any of the rest of the Valley.

MARCH 4, 2012
Soft shell crab followed by frogs legs, with roasted potato, pureed turnip and steamed green beans for dinner tonight at Le Sanglier in Tarzana. I love frogs legs and this place does them really well. Jennifer had a new item on the menu – baked Alaskan black cod. She said it was excellent. Your can read my recommendation of Le Sanglier at the restaurant recommendation web site atLarrys.com – http://www.atlarrys.com/

About the Author

Larry Levine is the founder and host of atLarrys.com and Table Talk at Larrys. Read his full biography by clicking here.