By Larry Levine –

January 26, 2019 – We said “good bye” tonight to one of my two favorite restaurants in California. With Toronto cousins Barry and Beverly, Jennifer and I had dinner at Melisse in Santa Monica. We’ve been dining there since it opened in July, 1999. Owner-chef Josiah Citrin is closing the fine-dining restaurant March 2. It will undergo a makeover and is scheduled to reopen next summer. I’ll be interviewing Josiah soon for a feature on the life cycle of Melisse and what he plans for the future of the site.

November 26, 2018 – What a strange Thanksgiving. Jennifer took ill and we had to cancel our trip to spend the holiday with son John and his family. We had a very quiet four days, with Jennifer on the mend. In the meantime, I just sent the modifications for COOKING FOR A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN – typo corrections, text fixes and changes, revised copy for the cover – to the publisher. Thank you to the small army of friends, relatives and old school mates who helped with the proof reading. I’m waiting to hear back regarding the next steps in this process.

October 20, 2018 – The L.A. Times food pages revealed today something I had known for some time but was sworn to not reveal. Josiah Citrin is having lease issues at Melisse in Santa Monica and we may be about to lose this treasured restaurant. Melisse had been one of my favorites since it opened nearly 20 years ago. Josiah’s father-in-law and I were golfing friends. We were playing as partners in a tournament when he told me of Josiah’s new fine dining restaurant, which had opened just two weeks earlier. Jennifer and I were there a week alter. It was one of the original restaurants I posted as a recommendation when I founded the restaurant website In the meantime, Josiah has taken over space at the Line Hotel in L.A.’s Koreatown for he new Openaire, which has some Korean food influences but is not a Korean restaurant.

October 6, 2018 – I was seated next to Antonio Varia during dinner at a wedding we attended tonight. Antonio owns Buona Tavola Ristoranti in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, CA. We were introduced to Antonio and his wife, Tina, by the same mutual friend whose wedding we were attending. As you can imagine, our conversation dwelled almost exclusively on food, restaurants, recipes, Italian markets, and Italy. In addition to the two restaurants, Antonio owns Alle-Pia, where he turns out handcrafted Italian salami. 

October 5, 2018 – Chef-owner Tetsuya Nakao prepared my omakase meal tonight at Asanebo in Studio City, CA. He elevates the art of food preparation, flavor and eye appeal. It’s the 27th anniversary of the restaurant and the place is appropriately decorated with well-wishes from many of the top sushi restaurants in the area.  

AUGUST 24, 2018 – Tonight was my first visit to Asanebo for sushi since chef Mark Okuda moved on. He will be opening his own place in Woodland Hills soon. Mark is an extraordinary sushi chef and I look forward to seeing what he does with his new place. He bought the spot from the retiring owner of Brothers Sushi.

JULY 18, 2018 Report today that the Ports O’ Call restaurant at San Pedro harbor has been shut down to make way for a public market. The place even fell short as a tourist trap.

JULY 17, 2018 – Lunch today at Petit Trois. It was comfortably full during the lunch hour. I checked with the hostess and she said I could pretty much count on a seat at the bar if I walked there from my office and arrived there at noon.

JUNE 14, 2018 – Lunch today at Angelini Osterea, probably my favorite L.A. lunch place. I arrived at 11:50 and they were printing the day’s menu. The food at this place is never less than excellent and the Italian-speaking staff is friendly and devoted to making the experience pleasant.

JUNE 5, 2018 – Jennifer and I just got back from lunch in the 1950s. We ducked out for a quick meal at Beeps, which has been in continuous operation in Van Nuys, CA since 1956. Jennifer had chili-fries with cheese and onions and a blackberry malt. I had a steak quesadilla at a vanilla malt. While we ate, we listened to Elvis, Richie, Buddy, and a number of long-forgotten groups.

MAY 20, 2018 – I made chicken legs and thighs with sliced onions and baby red skinned potatoes in parchment paper for dinner tonight. It was the first time I ever cooked in parchment paper before and wasn’t really sure how long to cook it and at what temperature. So, I used my instincts and it turned out really nice. I seasoned the chicken with granulated garlic and onion, paprika and fines herbs.

MAY 19, 2018 – Musso and Frank for dinner tonight. Marinated herring, then liver and onions. I asked for the Charlie Chaplin table but someone already had made a reservation for that one. So, we got the Joe DiMaggio / Marilyn Monroe table. The restaurant is 99 years old. You know what that means for next year.

MAY 5, 2018First the good news. Jennifer and I celebrated my birthday tonight with dinner at Ludo Lefebvre’s new Petit Trois in Sherman Oaks. I had the most unique steak tartare I’ve ever eaten and it was delicious. I was a bit disappointed that they were out of the Dover Sole so early in the evening. So, I had the Big Mec, a huge burger on a great bun with a foie gras sauce. Then I had the vanilla Napolean. Jennifer had a crab cake and then a croque monsieur. Her dessert was an apple tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Tables are packed close together, as in France, and we had a pleasant conversation with the couple next to us. Now the sad news. Formoli’s Bistro, one of my favorite Sacramento restaurants has closed. It wasn’t a matter of how much business they were doing. The owners have two young children and the restaurant was keeping them busy lunch and dinner seven days a week.

APRIL 29, 2018 – Ludo Lefebvre’s Petit Trois opened three days ago in Sherman Oaks, CA. It’s walkable from my office. My excitement level is high. We’re going there for my birthday and I’m hoping it can become my new go-to lunch place, now that Barney’s Gourmet Burgers has closed.

APRIL 28, 2018 – Score one for the internet. Big discovery tonight. I felt like BBQ for dinner and didn’t feel like driving to Swinging Door in North Hollywood. So I went to Bing and put in barbeque restaurants near me. One that caught my eye is called Mom’s B.B.Q. House. The menu looked good and it’s only a mile or so from where we live. I’ve been wanting fried chicken for a while, so I passed on the ribs, beef and pork. I had fried chicken with potato salad and baked beans. All very good. The woman who was running the place told me they’ve been operating at that location for 31 years. We’ve lived here for 38 years. All those wasted years. I have a lot of catching up to do. Most of the people in the line were there to pickup phone orders. As I sat and ate, I chatted with many of them. Almost all were regulars.

APRIL 19, 2018 – I stopped in for dinner at Asanebo in Studio City, CA last night and found myself sitting next to chef Ludo Lefebvre of Trois Mec at the sushi bar. He was with a friend and the three of us had a nice discussion of the best seafood cities in the U.S., different types of mussels, and other things food-related topics. He told me he will be opening Petit Trois in Sherman Oaks next week, less than a mile from my office. It’s going to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a French bistro menu. I’m hoping it will be an attractive replacement for my now-gone standby lunch place, Barney’s Gourmet Burgers. A roundtrip walk with a responsible lunch could delight my cardiologist.

APRIL 7, 2018 – I dusted off an old recipe tonight and made chicken fricassee with pene pasta. This one is special. It will be in my forthcoming memoir “COOKING FOR A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN / the tastes and tales of a wonderful life.”

APRIL 6, 2018 – Spectacular would be an understatement to describe the meal I had last night at Asanebo. Chef Mark was at the top of his game and the fish was off the charts. I tasted something new – ayu. It’s a small, smelt like fish, served whole with a wonderful vinegar based dipping sauce. The fish is steamed and somehow the skin is lightly crisped. I removed the head, ate two filets, lifted out the skeleton, and ate the rest of the meat. While the fish looks like a miniature trout, the taste a much sweeter than trout or smelt. I also had cherry salmon, seasonally important from Japan, New Zealand salmon, Santa Barbara uni worth of a salute, and blue fin toro from the shoulder part of the fish that was like melting butter on the tongue.

APRIL 2, 2018 – Barney’s Gourmet Burgers in the Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks has closed. I’ve eaten lunch there two or three times a week, sometimes more, for at least six years. It was my daily cardio program: walk to Barney’s, have lunch, walk back to the office and up three flights of steps to my office. My doctor’s thought that was a good daily program. Lunch most frequently was a grilled chicken breast with onion and tomato on a bun. I confess to being hooked on the steak fries. I allowed myself a burger about twice a month. This morning, I arrived at the mall for a coffee meeting at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. As I passed Barney’s, I saw the grate was up and the tables were gone. I joked to the one guy in the place, “How can I have lunch if you don’t have any tables.” He answered, “We sold them.” I asked, “New ones coming in?” He told me Barney’s had closed for good. The place would  be renovated and leased to someone new. Barney’s was a key reason why I renewed my lease to stay in this office building – a decent lunch, the walking and the stairs. I have no idea what I will do about lunch from now on. The food court just doesn’t cut it. Too much sodium in everything. And there’s nothing else in walking distance except the hot dog cart across the street.

APRIL 1, 2018 – It was Southern Fried Chicken Gizzards on a bed of rice with mushrooms for dinner tonight. Very good but a bit chewy. I found a recipe online and adapted from there. I’ll try it again sometime with a different preparation.

MARCH 31, 2018 – Lamb is my favorite meat, except for skirt steak. Over the years I’ve made leg of lamb in five different styles – French, Italian, English, Mediterranean, and Indian. I let Jennifer select this time and she picked Indian. So that’s what we had tonight – Indian leg of lamb with roasted potatoes. Delicious and enough left over for a lamb curry dinner in the near future.

MARCH 30, 2018 – I was in the meat department at Gelson’s Market today, looking for chicken skins that I would fry to make greben and mix with mashed hard boiled eggs. My mother used to make this often. I saw the container of skins in the market the other day and passed on them. But they stuck in my mind. While I was there, today, I came across an absolutely beautiful shank end of a leg of lamb. I brought it home for tomorrow.

MARCH 25, 2018 – I got bitten by a creative bug tonight. Had a vague I idea for a dinner dish. I knew it would include shrimp and chorizo. Originally I was going to do it in a rice concoction. But when I was in the market I decided to add a chicken leg. Fried the sliced chorizo, browned the chicken legs in the drippings from the chorizo. Basmati rice in a mixture of chicken stock and stock made from shrimp shells. Added oregano, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper to the broth, put in the rice and slow boiled for 8 minutes. Then added about 4 ounces of tomato sauce and a couple of pinches of salt. Put the rice and a little more broth in the pan, added the chorizo and chicken legs and stuck it in a 350 oven for 25 minutes. Sautéed the shrimp in butter. Piled the shrimp and chicken on top of the rice and chorizo and served. Wow. I love doing stuff like this.

MARCH 24, 2018 – Jennifer and I went to Lala’s Argintine Grill for dinner. We shared a very good beef empanada. Then we had a small mountain of sweet breads from the cow’s neck. Wonderfully seasoned. Cooked perfectly. Jen had a rib eye steak with grilled onions and mashed potatoes. I had entrana, skirt steak with mashed potatoes. (Pardon, but I can’t find the accent for over the n in entrana.)

MARCH 23, 2018 – Introduced Tricia Robbins Kasson to Asanebo tonight. She has evolved into an excellent candidate and would make an excellent member of the Assembly. Smart. Intuitive. A world of life experience. The Primary Election is April 3. Tough race. We are being outspent more than 3 to 1. But we have a good message. We’ll see.

FEBRUARY 23, 2018 -Something new at Asanebo tonight. The Omakase Course B has left me feeling uncomfortably full the last few times. So, tonight I constructed my own meal, with a big assist from sushi chef Mark. I had a mix of raw and cooked dishes. One highlight that Mark suggested was octopus with caramelized onions and tomato in a delicious broth. Koji’s ankimo (monk fish liver) was extraordinary as always. The very seasonal leather fish is a treat. The bill came to the same number as when I have the Omakase, but I felt much more comfortable at the end. One upside to Omakase is that Mark does all the thinking.

JANUARY 13, 2018 – Tough start to the year. First there is a tooth infection and a dentist who doesn’t seem to know what to do about it. Our dentist of 30+ years retired. We’ve been through three since then and I’m not looking for number four to deal with this tooth. Anyway, eating has been a bit restricted. It’s the back tooth, top left. Can’t chew back there. On top of that, I’ve gotten neck deep in an election campaign and haven’t been home in time to cook all week. We did get a dinner at Panzanella, which always is a treat. Tonight we had spaghetti with a new batch of homemade marinara and meatballs. One of my better marinara efforts.

DECEMBER 27, 2017 – Note to self: Next time you go to Sacramento, take a cooler; talk to Suzzane at Formoli’s Bistro about where they source their pork and go buy some to bring home. The pork chops at Formoli’s are consistently excellent.

DECEMBER 24, 2017 – Cooked the baked ham from Jacques Peppin’s Heart and South in the Kitchen for Jennifer, me and family friends Trudy and Jill. It the second time I’ve done this ham recipe. It’s one of the few recipes from which I do not stray. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better ham than Peppin’s. That was the unanimous opinion at the dinner table. Served it with yams, sweet potatoes, and grilled fresh pineapple rings.

DECEMBER 17, 2017 – Brisket dinner tonight at Lloyd and Edie’s. I was sidelined again, just like at Thanksgiving. Lloyd made the entire meal.

DECEMBER 16, 2017 – Wonderful dinner tonight at Formoli’s Bistro in Sacramento with son Lloyd and daughter-in-law Edie. I had a double cut pork chop that was tender, tasty and cooked perfectly pink. Formoli’s serves about the only pork I can find these days with flavor. I have the names of their two purveyors, neither of which ships. On some future trip I will bring a cooler and brings some home with me.

DECEMBER 13, 2017 – I made “Jennifer’s Best in the World Meat Loaf” for dinner tonight at our son Lloyd’s home in Sacramento. Granddaughter Carlie, 3, loved it as did all the rest of it. It’s a recipe Jennifer evolved some 30+ years ago and it will appear in the upcoming publication of my memoir with recipes COOKING FOR A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN / the tastes and tales of a wonderful life.

NOVEMBER 27, 2017 – From my wine locker, I opened a bottle of 2001 Chateau La Fleur Bordeaux from Saint-Emilion as my everyday, drink-at-home wine for the next few days. Live can be good.

NOVEMBER 24, 2017 – Dinner tonight with Jennifer, son Lloyd and daughter-in-law Edie at Biba in Sacramento, my favorite restaurant in all of California.

NOVEMBER 23, 2017 (LATER) – For the first time in nearly 50 years, I cooked nothing for Thanksgiving. We used to have as many as 25 people at our home for the holiday and I would cook the entire meal. Now the torch is passed. Son Lloyd did everything – turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie and daughter-in-law Edie made the cranberry sauce. I spent the day playing with our granddaughters and nervously wondering what was going on.

NOVEMBER 23, 2017 (THANKSGIVING DAY) – Don’t know what happened, but a month’s worth of posts in Hot off the Stove seem to have vanished. In that month I’ve posted about dinners we have at Panzanella in Sherman Oaks, CA, Le Sanglier in Tarzana, CA, and Asenebo in Studio City. Also, there was a post notifying readers that Kendall’s at the L.A. Music Center is once again open for lunch. For dinner last night, I cooked one of our favorites – orange marmalade coated chicken parts with currants and dried apricots in an orange juice and apple juice sauce. We are in Sacramento for dinner tonight with son Lloyd, daughter-in-law Edie and granddaughters Alise and Carlie.

OCTOBER 29, 2017 – Time is running out. If you want a last shot at the famous First Monday Fried Chicken dinner at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro in Beverly Hills, you better grab it the first Monday of November or December. Chef Keller will be closing the bistro, the bar and the bakery the end of this year, according to his PR representatives.

OCTOBER 27, 2017 – Tonight it’s the other half of last night’s roast chicken. I’ll make a mushroom gravy and heat the chicken in the gravy. To do this requires that the bird not be marinated to start with so it doesn’t carry an unacceptable flavor into the second night.

OCTOBER 26, 2017 – It’s no easy task to roast a whole chicken and not have the breast turn out dry or the leg and thigh to be under cooked. Think about the difference in the cooking time for each of these. I roasted a bird tonight – 400 degrees for 1 hour after coating it in olive oil. Turned out fine.

OCTOBER 25, 2017 – Todd Murakami has been cutting fish for me at sushi bars for 29 years. I missed a few innings of the Dodgers – Astros World Series to have dinner at Todd’s restaurant – Murakami on Melrose Ave. in L.A. – with my good friend Amanda Susskind.

OCTOBER 23, 2017 – After a very nice, and very hot da, at the Safari Park we went for dinner at the Argyle Steakhouse at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad. We each had the hanger steak and whipped potatoes. Jennifer and I are not really steakhouse fans and we don’t eat much beef. We enjoyed the ambiance of Argyle and the steaks were good. It was a nice place to relax after a good day together.

OCTOBER 22, 2017 – Dinner tonight with nephew Bryan, his wife Lisa and their daughter Cassidy at de’ Medici Cucina Italiana in the Gas Lamp District of San Diego.  I had my traditional Perfect Manhattan to start the evening. Then we shared a Cesar Salad, made tableside with a real coddled egg yolk. Some of the waiters are hesitant to do it this way and want to use egg beaters. But I insisted and the owner gave his approval. Then I had veal piccata with a side of spaghetti with olive oil and garlic. This was the meal I had the first time Jennifer and I dined here in 2008 and probably three quarters of the time since.

OCTOBER 20, 2017 — Rich on rich on rich. That was dinner tonight at Vivace at the Park Aviara Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA. I started with an appetizer portion of state tartar. Then it was a wonderful portion of seared foie gras. followed that with an excellent lobster risotto. Love the food and ambiance of this excellent restaurant.


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