Tag Archives: Food

Lazy Ox Canteen, Los Angeles

Having been shut out of the LA Street Food Fair (bad organization and two very long lines), Sasha and I, along with Anthony and Rebekah settled for a lazy lunch at the Lazy Ox Canteen.

Ludo Bites “pop-ups” michelin style french cuisine without the stuffyness

Where’s a respectable foodie to take his newly ‘ringed’ fiance? A fine, romantic, french restaurant you say? Well this is Los Angeles, where The Rainbow still rocks and the Hollywood Hills roll all the way down to the Malibu surf. Why get dressed up when you can have the same meal dressed down?

Ludo Lefebvre is the Axl Rose of traditional French cuisine. His resume is a who’s who of chefs and restaurants: Marc Meneau, Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard, Guy Martin, L’Orangerie, and Bastide.

With Ludo Bites, Ludo reinvents himself and the fine dining experience. A ‘pop-up’ restaurant, currently located in the BreadBar location on Third Street (here) and open only for dinner (when BreadBar is closed), Ludo Bites is affordable Michelin style french cuisine, with a hip, casual attitude.

If you don’t make it over to Ludo Bites before its current incarnation closes on August 22, 2009, be sure to look out for whenever it ‘pops-up’ in a new location sometime soon.

With the best corkage fee in town ($5), we BYO'd a french style Pinot Noir, the 2003 Domaine Alfred Califa from the Chamisal Vineyard, Edna Valley, Central Coast California

With the best corkage fee in town ($5), we BYO'd a french style Pinot Noir, the 2003 Domaine Alfred Califa from the Chamisal Vineyard, Edna Valley, Central Coast California

The Fois Gras Black Croque-Monsieur with Ham, Cherry and Amaretto is creamy, rich and delicious.  The perfectly grilled bread gets its color from squid ink.

The Fois Gras Black Croque-Monsieur with Ham, Cherry and Amaretto is creamy, rich and delicious. The perfectly grilled bread gets its color from squid ink.

A new style greek salad comes together with Marinated Heirloom Tomato, Feta Mousse, Red Onion and Olives.  The creamy, sorbet-like feta mousse balances the sharpness of the olives.

A new style greek salad comes together with Marinated Heirloom Tomato, Feta Mousse, Red Onion and Olives. The creamy, sorbet-like feta mousse balances the sharpness of the olives.

The baked escargot with herb butter, spinach and curry-yogurt is one of the more interesting versions of the classic french dish.  Don't forget the garlicky crouton at the bottom of the dish; it balances the spinach beautifully.

The baked escargot with herb butter, spinach and curry-yogurt is one of the more interesting versions of the classic french dish. Don't forget the garlicky crouton at the bottom of the dish; it balances the spinach beautifully.

Grilled Duck Breast with Leeks Salad, Ginger, Capers and Black Truffle is a contrast in extremes.  The perfectly cooked duck shines in black truffle, but can get easily overpowered by the one-two acidic punch of the leeks and ginger.

Grilled Duck Breast with Leeks Salad, Ginger, Capers and Black Truffle is a contrast in extremes. The perfectly cooked duck shines in black truffle, but can get easily overpowered by the one-two acidic punch of the leeks and ginger.

Beef Tenderloin and Smoked Eggplant with Goat Cheese, Shallots, Chive Flower and Radish is Chef Ludo at his finest.  The beef, a perfect medium rare, explodes with char-grilled flavors, only enhanced by the smokeyness of the eggplant.  The goat cheese and carmelized shallots combine to taste like a fully loaded backed potato without the potato.  This is definately one of LA's best beef dishes.

Beef Tenderloin and Smoked Eggplant with Goat Cheese, Shallots, Chive Flower and Radish is Chef Ludo at his finest. The beef, a perfect medium rare, explodes with char-grilled flavors, only enhanced by the smokeyness of the eggplant. The goat cheese and carmelized shallots combine to taste like a fully loaded backed potato without the potato. This is definately one of LA's best beef dishes.

Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with Caramel and Caviar is perfectly executed contrast in flavors; the soft, creamy panna cotta is enveloped by the sweet, smooth caramel and then taken to an entirely new level by the salty, burst in your mouth caviar.

Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with Caramel and Caviar is perfectly executed contrast in flavors; the soft, creamy panna cotta is enveloped by the sweet, smooth caramel and then taken to an entirely new level by the salty, burst in your mouth caviar.

The Chocolate Cup Cake with Fois Gras Chantilly, Candied Bacon-Almonds and Maple Syrup is a meal unto itself.  Rich, savory, smokey and sweet all at once, this dessert is not for beginners.

The Chocolate Cup Cake with Fois Gras Chantilly, Candied Bacon-Almonds and Maple Syrup is a meal unto itself. Rich, savory, smokey and sweet all at once, this dessert is not for beginners.

Hirozen Gourmet – a local sushi joint that is anything but ordinary

Hirozen Gourmet is a perfect example of why you can only find the best sushi in the U.S. in Los Angeles. Located in a mini-mall on an average corner of Beverly Blvd. (here, actually), Hiroji Obayashi’s 20 year old restaurant puts out consistently excellent food with a creative and colorful flair. I have enjoyed the delights of Hirozen many times and have never had anything but a great meal.

Obayashisan’s philosophy is “food is for the human relation,” meaning that a meal is the connective tissue of society around which one creates a gathering of people to share their lives with one another. His food expresses his philosophy in the way it surprises without demanding center stage, delights without showing off and sublimely satiates without overpowering. In a city of many options for outstanding sushi, Hirozen Gourmet enters its third decade still standing out from the crowd.

Cucumber sunomono - sliced cucumbers, seaweed and shoots in rice vinegar with lemon; a light, refreshing start to any sushi meal

Cucumber sunomono - sliced cucumbers, seaweed and shoots in rice vinegar with lemon; a light, refreshing start to any sushi meal

L-R: Tai - japanese snapper with sea salt and mint; Loup de Mer w/ yuzu-kosho and sea salt; Dorado - French Snapper w/ sea salt

L-R: Tai - japanese snapper with sea salt and mint; Loup de Mer w/ yuzu-kosho and sea salt; Dorade - French Snapper w/ sea salt

L-R: Blue Fine Tuna with soy sauce and wasabi; Hirame with ponzu and green onion

L-R: Blue Fine Tuna with soy sauce and wasabi; Hirame with ponzu and green onion

L-R: Tasmanian Sea Trout with ponzu and scallion; Aji - spanish mackerel with fresh ginger and scallion; White Salmon with scallion; the best trio of the meal, 3 smokey, creamy delicious pieces of fish

L-R: Tasmanian Sea Trout with ponzu and scallion; Aji - spanish mackerel with fresh ginger and scallion; White Salmon with scallion; the best trio of the meal, 3 smokey, creamy delicious pieces of fish

Albacore Clear Roll - albacore, avocado, mango, cumcumber in clear rice paper

Albacore Clear Roll - albacore, avocado, mango, cucumber in clear rice paper

Another highlight, the Wagyu - grilled sake-kasu japanese beef - was perfectly cooked tender, and delicately seasoned sweet and salty

Another highlight, the Wagyu - grilled sake-kasu japanese beef - was perfectly cooked tender, and delicately seasoned sweet and salty

L-R: Kampachi - amberjack (or baby yellowtail) with yuzu-kosho; Mirugai- jumbo clam with mint; Yari-Ika - fresh squid with ginger; a return to light and citrus flavours

L-R: Kampachi - amberjack (or baby yellowtail) with yuzu-kosho; Mirugai- jumbo clam with mint; Yari-Ika - fresh squid with ginger; a return to light and citrus flavours

L-R: Spicy grilled yellow tail with scallion; Uni - Santa Barbara Sea Urchin; Unagi - fresh water eel with eel sauce; finishing the meal with a tour of flavors, from rich to briney sea to a savory, sweet, grilled dessert

L-R: Spicy grilled yellow tail with scallion; Uni - Santa Barbara Sea Urchin; Unagi - fresh water eel with eel sauce; finishing the meal with a tour of flavors, from rich to briney sea to a savory, sweet, grilled dessert

Leaning into the good stuff at The Slanted Door

Destination weddings with a large group of close friends are always fun, especially when that destination is San Francisco.  So, in honor of the nuptials of our dear, superfoodie friends Blair and Keith, we decamped to San Fran, unquestionably the foodie capital of the U.S. and a great place for a weekend trip with friends.

Sasha and I, along with our friends Adam and Marina (who took all the great photos you will see below) and Drew and Dana decided to chow down at one of San Fran’s best known and strikingly beautiful restaurants, The Slanted Door.  Located at The Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, with one of the best views of San Francisco Bay, The Slanted Door is a modern Vietnamese restaurant that showcases the abundance of produce as well as ecologically farmed meat, game and poultry found at farms around the San Francisco Bay Area. For the menu, click here.

In addition to The Slanted Door, The Ferry Building also houses one of the great indoor food marketplaces in the U.S., and a great Farmer’s Market can be found outside on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Every meal should begin with a cocktail this perfect - Ginger Limeade with Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka, ginger, and lime; served on the rocks (photo: Marina Cohn)

Every meal should begin with a cocktail this perfect - Ginger Limeade with Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka, ginger, and lime; served on the rocks (photo: Marina Cohn)

Spicy yellowfin tuna tartare with english cucumber, scallion and toasted sesame, served on a rice and seaweed crisp - crunchy, spicy bites of wonderful (photo: Marina Cohn)

Spicy yellowfin tuna tartare with english cucumber, scallion and toasted sesame, served on a rice and seaweed crisp - crunchy, spicy bites of wonderful (photo: Marina Cohn)

Japanese yellowtail with crispy shallots and thai basil - a light, fresh way to both cleanse the palate and begin a meal (photo by Marina Cohn)

Japanese yellowtail with crispy shallots and thai basil - a light, fresh way to both cleanse the palate and begin a meal (photo by Marina Cohn)

Slanted door spring rolls with shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce - so fresh and delicious, we forgot to take the picture until they were almost all gone (photo: Marina Cohn)

Slanted door spring rolls with shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce - so fresh and delicious, we forgot to take the picture until they were almost all gone (photo: Marina Cohn)

Crispy vegetarian imperial rolls with taro root, cabbage, glass noodles and peanuts - food with instructions...(1) put noodles, roll and mint in lettuce (2) dip in the sauce (3) put in mouth (photo: Marina Cohn)

Crispy vegetarian imperial rolls with taro root, cabbage, glass noodles and peanuts - food with instructions...(1) put noodles, roll and mint in lettuce (2) dip in the sauce (3) put in mouth (photo: Marina Cohn)

Hue rice dumplings with mung bean, scallion oil and spicy soy sauce - a creamy, chewy texture with excellent, subtle flavor profile kicked up just so by the spicy soy sauce (photo: Marina Cohn)

Hue rice dumplings with mung bean, scallion oil and spicy soy sauce - a creamy, chewy texture with excellent, subtle flavor profile kicked up just so by the spicy soy sauce (photo: Marina Cohn)

Niman Ranch shaking beef cubed filet mignon, sausalito springs' watercress, red onions and lime dipping sauce - this signature does NOT disappoint; the tender, sweet beef and crisp red oinions flavor mixes perfectly with the lime dipping suace (photo: Marina Cohn)

Niman Ranch shaking beef cubed filet mignon, sausalito springs' watercress, red onions and lime dipping sauce - this signature does NOT disappoint; the tender, sweet beef and crisp red oinions flavor mixes perfectly with the lime dipping suace (photo: Marina Cohn)

Drool inducing sauteed pork and grapes with hoisin sauce; salty, savory sliced pork paired with bursting fruit is a winner every time (photo: Marina Cohn)

Drool inducing sauteed pork and grapes with hoisin sauce; salty, savory sliced pork paired with bursting fruit is a winner every time (photo: Marina Cohn)

Dirty girl farm haricot verts with beech mushrooms and roasted chili - crisp, crunchy beans with meaty mushrooms and a nice kick (photo: Marina Cohn)

Dirty girl farm haricot verts with beech mushrooms and roasted chili - crisp, crunchy beans with meaty mushrooms and a nice kick (photo: Marina Cohn)

Happy, satisfied diners (photo: Marina Cohn)

Happy, satisfied diners (photo: Marina Cohn)


La Bucaccia – A family run jewel under the Tuscan sun

About an hour’s drive south of Florence, in the southern Tuscan province of Arezzo, high in the hills near Lake Trasimeno, site of Hannibal’s great defeat of the Roman Army under Gaius Flaminius in June 217 B.C., lies the commune of Cortona. Founded by the Etruscans, Cortona is known by the expression “mother of Troy, grandmother of Rome” due the myths which connect the town to the founding of both of those great cities. More recently, the commune is famous for being the setting of the book and film Under the Tuscan Sun.

Exactly 1782 years and 2 days after Rome’s defeat by Hannibal’s armies, Sasha and I, along with our dear friends Cosimo, Christine, Domenico and Angelina, arrived in Cortona.

Of all the Etruscan gateways to Cortona, there is only one that remains intact, the Porta Bifora, called “La Bucaccia” or “evil hole”. La Bucaccia owes its fame (and its name and closure until 1996) to 1258, when the citizens of Arezzo and the exiled Cortonese Guelphs entered Cortona through this gateway and sacked the town.

Porta Bifora "La Bucaccia"...the "evil hole"

Just up Via Ghibellina from the Porta Bifora sits a stunning example of Tuscan cuisine at its finest, Hostaria La Bucaccia. This restaurant, heretofore overlooked by Micheline, is sure to one day receive the star it well deserves. Run by Romano Magi and his exceptional, master chef of a wife Agostina, with ample help from their adorable daughter Francesca, La Bucaccia is not only the best restaurant in Cortona, but of all the places we ate on our Italian tour, it was my favorite.

Romano and Agostina Magi and Chad

Romano and Agostina Magi and Chad


La Bucaccia - Sign
Entrance to Hostaria La Bucaccia

Entrance to Hostaria La Bucaccia


The interior of La Bucaccia is the former cellars of the 13th century Palazzo Cattani

The interior of La Bucaccia is the former cellars of the 13th century Palazzo Cattani


Cinghiale Paradise - wild boar sausage, prosciutto con melone, salame, finocciono with apricot, and bresola with apples.  You sure can't get this in the US.

Cinghiale Paradise - wild boar sausage, prosciutto con melone, salame, finocciono with apricot, and bressola with apples. You sure can't get this in the US.


Carpaccio of black pork with fresh greens and balsamic

Carpaccio of black pork with fresh greens and balsamic


Tagliatelle with fresh black truffle, fresh ingredients perfectly cooked with that wonderful truffle flavor

Tagliatelle with fresh black truffle, fresh ingredients perfectly cooked with that wonderful truffle flavor


Sant’Egidio style chestnut Ravioli filled with ricotta and sprinkled with mint flavored porcini mushroom sauce

Sant’Egidio style chestnut Ravioli filled with ricotta and sprinkled with mint flavored porcini mushroom sauce


Pappardelle with wild boar ragu; savory and sweet, rich and delicious, this is a classic cortonese/tuscan dish that perfectly captures place and transcends time

Pappardelle with wild boar ragu; savory and sweet, rich and delicious, this is a classic cortonese/tuscan dish that perfectly captures place and transcends time


An up close look at one of my favorite pasta dishes ever: pappardelle al cighiale ragu (wild boar)

An up close look at one of my favorite pasta dishes ever: pappardelle al cinghiale ragu (wild boar)


Sliced steak of black pork in a peppercorn sauce - an Agostina speciality

Sliced steak of black pork in a peppercorn sauce - an Agostina speciality


Grilled steak with lemon

Grilled steak with lemon


Grilled steak topped with a smoky bacon flavored sauce

Grilled steak topped with a smoky bacon flavored sauce


Grilled steak in a sweet red wine reduction sauce

Grilled steak in a sweet red wine reduction sauce


Chocolate cake with cream and chocolate sauce

Chocolate cake with cream and chocolate sauce


Tiramisu

Tiramisu


Strawberry gelato

Strawberry gelato


Biscotti perfectly compliment Vin Santo as a way to finish a great meal

Biscotti perfectly compliment Vin Santo as a way to finish a great meal


Vin Santo "La Bucaccia" riserva 1977 shown with the decanting pourer
Vin Santo 3 ways, all of them delicious

Vin Santo 3 ways, all of them delicious


In this small but well equipped kitchen, Agostina makes magic happen

In this small but well equipped kitchen, Agostina makes magic happen


In Agostina's kitchen, with husband and partner Romano and sous chef

In Agostina's kitchen, with husband and partner Romano and sous chef


Florence’s Ringo gets by without help from his friends…but with amazing slow food – June 24, 2009

Our first day in Florence began where it should, at the Uffizi Gallery. Where else? I mean, why not start your day with some Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and more. But after spending a few hours walking at a snails pace and battling crowds with firmly but gently placed elbows, one builds up an appetite.

A few weeks before we left, I bumped into my friend David, a man known to enjoy a good meal or two in his time. “If you’re going to Florence, you have to go to Ringo’s,” he mandated. “It’s the best lunch in Florence.”

Outside tables at Ringo's

Outside tables at Ringo's

When you enter Ringo’s, located here, just steps from the Boboli Garden side of the Ponte Vechhio, you may ask yourself, “Am I in the right place? Can this tiny space dominated mostly by a kitchen and small bar by a temple of gastronomic pleasure?” Then, you are promptly (and politely) informed that this is a slow food establishment, and that if you are looking for a quick bite to eat, go eat elsewhere. And maybe the “Slow Food” sign helps too. This place means serious business.

Is this a gastronomic temple?

Is this a gastronomic temple?

Ringo’s has been run my the same man, in the same way, for over 42 years. The maestro makes food one order at a time, using only fresh, local (he grows most of the veggies and herbs he uses) ingredients. He has been ably assisted for the past 20 years by his daughter, and with their back and forth banter in a typically expressive, Tuscan manner, gesticulating on each key word, forceful, passionate, respectful and loving all at once, you know that Ringo’s is more than a place to eat, it’s a family. Although it was empty when we entered at half past noon, we sat at the bar with the anticipation of a unique and extraordinary experience. And we were not disappointed.

Sasha and Il Maestro

Sasha and Il Maestro

Ringo’s is famous for his burgers; Roman-sized monsters of high-grade, fresh ground beef, simply grilled and topped with you choice of grilled onions and/or cheese. However, everything on the menu is extraordinary, including his daily pastas (only for 2), garden fresh salads, antipasta plates and desserts. Ringo is so protective of his food, he won’t let you over order. We had to come back twice (and very happily so) to try the breadth of his menu.

Botticelli's Primavera is a fitting image for Ringo's fresh focused cooking

Botticelli's Primavera is a fitting image for Ringo's fresh focused cooking

Il Maestro at work

Il Maestro at work

A simple amuse of grilled bread, fresh sliced heirloom tomato and a sharp, soft blue cheese

A simple amuse of grilled bread, fresh sliced heirloom tomato and a sharp, soft blue cheese

Garden fresh veggies ready for your plate

Garden fresh veggies ready for your plate

Veggie salad with cantaloupe, butter lettuce, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, basil, salt, pepper and Ringo's special mustard with extra virgin and aceto red wine vinegar served in a fish bowl

Veggie salad with cantalope, butter lettuce, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, basil, salt, pepper and Ringo's special mustard with extra virgin and aceto red wine vinegar served in a fish bowl

View from the top

View from the top

A sandwich press, a stove top, and a grill; simple, well seasoned tools make simply delicious food

A sandwich press, a stove top, and a grill; simple, well seasoned tools make simply delicious food

Ringo's pasta changes each day (or when he runs out of sauce)

Ringo's pasta changes each day (or when he runs out of sauce)

Pasta is only served in portions for 2 people; On our vist the Daily Pasta was a tagliatelle in a cheesy sweet sausage ragu

Pasta is only served in portions for 2 people; On our vist the Daily Pasta was a tagliatelle in a cheesy sweet sausage ragu

Great hamburgers start with great meat, so fresh and flavorful Ringo doesn't even use salt

Great hamburgers start with great meat, so fresh and flavorful Ringo doesn't even use salt

Every great hamburger joint needs special sauce...but Ringo's is the first mustard based special sauce I have ever had

Every great hamburger joint needs special sauce...but Ringo's is the first mustard based special sauce I have ever had

Ringo hollow outs the bun top and fills it with ketchup; special mustard sauce goes on the bottom bun

Ringo hollow outs the bun top and fills it with ketchup; special mustard sauce goes on the bottom bun

Burgers on the grill...on the way to being eaten

Burgers on the grill...on the way to being eaten

And a radish on top makes it perfect...

And a radish on top makes it perfect...

A mild emmentaler completes the cheese version of Ringo's masterpiece

A mild emmentaler completes the cheese version of Ringo's masterpiece

The "bunless" version: arugula, cherry tomatoes, aceto, grilled sourdough with special mustard sauce and topped with grilled onions
The best tiramisu I have ever eaten, bar NONE, comes served on the spoon

The best tiramisu I have ever eaten, bar NONE, comes served on the spoon

Ciao, Ringo; we can't wait to visit you again

Ciao, Ringo; we can't wait to visit you again


Dining among the Florentine princes at La Giostra – June 23, 2009

After a long day of travel, art and food, interrupted by 2 delayed trains, Sasha and I finally arrived in Florence a few hours late but excited as ever. We checked into our 16th century palazzo of a hotel, Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo, located here, right across the street from Brunelleschi‘s masterpiece on top of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore . Even though Sasha was tired from our very long day, I was determined to start the Florence section of our trip of with a proper Florentine meal. And in La Giostra, I found one.

La Giostra is run by members of the Hapsburg Lorena family. Italian princes from when Italy was under Hapsburg rule, the family home is at Barberino Val d’Elsa in Chianti where for many years, like others in the Chianti region, they had produced olive oil, wine and other culinary delights. The restaurant is run by the colorful and bracelet covered Dimitri, his brother Soldano and Anastasia.

The restaurant space (they have two dining rooms on the same street located here) dates from the sixteenth century when it was used as a storage area for the painted horses and other parts of the Salvemini square carousel. In fact, the restaurant takes its name, La Giostra, a word that used to mean ‘the joust’, from this very carousel.

Dining room and former carousel storage facility from the 16th Century

Dining room and former carousel storage facility from the 16th Century

The food at La Giostra is traditional Tuscan; rich pastas, hearty meats and strong wines abound. I was seated for my first meal in Tuscany, surrounded by the cacophony of a full restaurant in an old, narrow, brick room, ordered a bottle of 2006 Canneto Vino Nobile di Montelpuciano Sangiovase and prepared myself for a feast.

Antipasta La Giostra

Antipasta La Giostra: Bruschetta with pomodoro and chicken liver with rabbit, tomato, mozzarella and mortadella, roasted peppers, potato salad and two mini quiches

Tagliatelle con Porcini and Nipitella alla Toscana

Tagliatelle con Porcini and Nipitella alla Toscana, a mix of traditional Tuscan spices

Osso Bucco La Giostra

Osso Bucco La Giostra; Amazingly sweet and soft (almost candied) carrots make this dish shine

For those interested in this very fine restaurant’s menu…here’s some it is.

La Giostra Menu 1
La Giostra Menu 2
La Giostra Menu 3
La Giostra Menu 4