Category Archives: Food

Slow-cooked comfort comes to Hal’s Bar & Grill

hals_1Some things about Hal’s Bar & Grill never change: Hal’s turkey burger, which has its own following on Instagram; Hal’s Caesar salad; the organic half chicken, a favorite of regulars; live jazz on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights; Mikel Alatza’s three-dimensional portrait of co-owner Hal Frederick hanging on the back wall across from Kwaku Alston’s larger-than-life black-and-white portrait of a sharply dressed lone African-American man walking down the road holding a guitar case; and the sight of Hal himself, white hair, classy suit, big smile.

And then, of course, some things do change. Like when the original location of Hal’s Bar & Grill on Abbot Kinney closed its doors in April 2015 after 30 years and opened down the street, sharing the former Primitivo space with its sister restaurant, Casalinda Mexican Grill, also owned by Hal’s Bar & Grill. Then, in April 2017, Hal’s Bar & Grill launched its new, additional location at Runway Playa Vista, serving only breakfast and lunch for six months while they waited for a liquor license. 

This month, Hal’s announced the arrival of a new executive chef, Lee Garman …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

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Timely Treats

treatIt seems like every day another evite or email pops up in our inboxes requesting our presence at another party: an office party, holiday gathering, family potluck, or end of the year celebration. It’s a wonderful — but also busy — time of year, and because you can’t show up empty-handed, here’s a list of delicious sweet and savory snacks to bring to your next soiree.

1. Terrific Tamales

For many Mexican-American families, tamales are a Christmastime tradition. Tamara’s Tamales on Washington Blvd. has been filling holiday orders for 27 years and counting. You’ll most likely see Tamara herself walking around in the kitchen overseeing every hand-packed tamale. Things get serious right about now. The cutoff date to order half dozen and a dozen tamales is Dec. 15. After that, it’s walk-ins only. If you do walk in, ask for whatever’s just out of the oven. Impress your party host with machaca beef or chicken verde tamales, or specialties like the king crab or traditional sweet tamale — stuffed with pineapple, raisins, sugar and anise. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Magic in the Kitchen

magicinthekitchen“’Tis the season,” announces Chef Clémence Gossett, co-owner and head pastry chef at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories, as she welcomes us into its state-of-the-art kitchen on the third floor of Santa Monica Place.

It’s a cliché as old as time. But when it comes to holiday baking, well, ’tis really the season.

It’s the time of year when Candyland ceases to be just a child’s board game and becomes the world in which we live — a world of sweets. It’s a time of family gatherings, office parties and bountiful dinners, and what we usually remember after all the hubbub is over are the desserts we indulged in.

It’s also the time of year when holiday cookies are everywhere! Decorating holiday cookies is a family tradition for many. The night before Christmas when Santa shimmies down the chimney, what do families leave for him? Cookies and milk!

This year, instead of leaving St. Nick gingersnaps or regular ole chocolate chip cookies, get fancy and festive with a plate of decorated sugar cookies. It’s a skill that can come in handy if you have an occasion on the calendar when you’ll want to impress, say a new partner and their family or, of course, Santa himself. …

Read the full article on The Argonaut.

The Bee Business is Booming

honeyRegular visitors to the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market have seen more than one kid running around with a stick of honey hanging from her mouth. Courtesy of Harry’s Honey, marketgoers can indulge in this naturally sweet treat, with flavors ranging from cinnamon and sour grape to orange blossom and banana.

Harry Stein has edible goodies for grownups, too. His specialty honeys are popular: lemon, buckwheat, clover, eucalyptus, sage, blackberry, and cactus (those last two are his bestsellers).

Sitting behind his colorfully decorated honey booth on Grand View Boulevard each Sunday, Stein appears to be a man completely at peace with his career path.

“I don’t get up to work,” he tells me. “I get up to play.”

In 1963, Stein stepped into a classroom in his junior year at Cornell University that would forever change his life. He signed up for a beekeeping course. Throughout the ’60s he sold honey to health food stores, and since then, his sales have continued to climb due to what he sees as young people being more in tune with their health.

“If you were on an island and all you had was water and pollen, you could live,” says Stein, who enumerates various health benefits of honey: It has the highest concentration of amino acids, which the body needs; it’s antiseptic, so bacteria cannot live in honey; you can apply it to burns and sores for relief. Honey has also been known to help people suffering from seasonal allergies. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Ritrovo brings a simple menu with simple pleasures to Playa Vista

ritrovoIt’s easy to forget, as you bite into a delicious piece of pizza margherita or a tasty bite of gnocchi al pesto, that every restaurant has a story. Many are tales of triumph, starring real people powered by incredible persistence and passion.

This is definitely the case with Italian eatery Ritrovo, opening this month in the old Pinkberry location on Seabluff Drive next to Playa Vista’s Concert Park.

The couple behind the scenes of this new spot is Ivan Kodeh and his wife Deva, who fell in love as teens in the south of France. Deva, a Santa Monica native whose parents are French, spent every summer growing up in France. While still a senior at Samohi, Deva met Ivan and decided to stay in France after graduation.

Now, the inseparable duo own Piccolo Ritrovo in Pacific Palisades and Mariners Cafe in Marina del Rey. Yet only three years ago, life didn’t look so rosy.

“After we met, we traveled around Africa and decided to open a restaurant in Cameroon,” says Deva. “But we were way too young. Then we came back to the south of France and opened a restaurant with Ivan’s family in a city next to Saint-Tropez. That didn’t work. We were only 21 at this point. Next we went to the French Alps, found jobs and we were doing well financially.”

On vacation in Africa, the couple traveled to Zanzibar, an island chain in Tanzania. They instantly felt at home. So they started looking for property, and with the help of family, they bought some land and started building an empire over the next 10 years. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

Fashionable Food on the Run

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Azulé Taqueria

Remember the Third Street Promenade food court where McDonald’s used to be — on the east side of the street, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue? If you haven’t been around there lately, that two-level building, with its long hallway on the first floor, recently received a $10 million makeover and was renamed
The Gallery.

Just in time for the holiday shopping rush, The Gallery Food Hall is filling up this season, with each new eatery adding more variety to the mix. All of the restaurants are fast-casual, clean, bright and kid-friendly. And it works well because eating at the Promenade is often an afterthought. You’re there to shop, go to the movies or just stroll, people-watch and be entertained by the endless stream of street performers. You want in and out — and also good.

Step inside the front door of The Gallery and to the left is Everytable, where fast food meets healthy fare under the motto “making healthy, affordable meals a reality for all.” It’s modern and visually appealing, and sort of resembles a place you might find at an airport, with all of the items in rows, packaged and ready to go. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Doggone Good

hotdogEverything tastes better when you add Asian-inspired flavors and ingredients. So, it was with open arms — and mouth — that I welcomed chef Jeffrey Lunak’s new spot, Sumo Dog, on its opening day at Third Street Promenade’s up-and-coming food hall The Gallery.

As I stepped up to order this past Saturday, Lunak was behind the grill, serving up artful combinations like The Romero (guacamole, pico de gallo, tempura crunchies, mayo, cilantro, wasabi seasoning) and the uniquely delicious Miso Katsu — a panko breaded dog of crunchy goodness, with miso dressing, mayo, scallions, tonkatsu sauce, wasabi furikake and coleslaw good enough to eat as its own side.

The Romero is all about the guacamole and its soft, sweet bun, which — Lunak whispered over the counter to me — is by Martin’s Famous. Each mouthful is overflowing with chunky avocado.

When you order, you have a choice of hot dog: vegan, American Wagyu All Beef or pork sausage, and can also add a side of furikake spiced tater tots, sushi rice tots or make them “Sumo Style,” which means the tots come topped with a beef or tofu chili, pickled peppers, jalapeno, cheese, a spicy mayo teriyaki sauce, kizami nori and wasabi seasoning. Wasabi is everywhere, even in the ginger ale (though you can turn down the spicy factor on any of the dogs).

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

The Art of the Pancake

pancake

Photo Credit: Gail Rogers

When I was a kid, my dad would often cook hot breakfasts for my brother and me. I loved them all: cream of wheat, matzo brei, French toast. But my favorite was pancakes. My dad really knows how to make pancakes.

It’s not just my brother and I who love his pancakes. A few of the neighborhood kids still remember his pancakes, and some are lucky enough to enjoy them as adults when he decides to whip them up.

Full disclosure: My dad is a hippie. His recipe for whole wheat (pastry flour) pancakes is from the Tassajara Cookbook. And his secret is separating the egg whites from the yolks, beating the whites and folding them back into the rest of the batter. It’s what makes his pancakes fluffy.

Because I always have my dad’s delicious pancakes in the back of my mind, I’m a tough customer when ordering pancakes at restaurants. But here are five local eateries that are doin’ hotcakes right …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

An Edible Education

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Photo by Ximena Kupferwasser

Food is science. Nothing proves this proverb more than watching a cooking demo at The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories at Santa Monica Place.

On June 20, The Gourmandise School opened the doors to its new space in the shopping center not far from where it has operated since 2011. It’s three times bigger now — with two kitchens, instead of one.

Two weeks later, on a hot summer night, four professional chefs are prepping food for their upcoming demos in their areas of expertise. The Gourmandise School is celebrating its grand reopening with an explosion of edible treats.

Chef Carol Cotner Thompson begins her session on how to make amazing farmers market summer salads by sharing her philosophy on cooking: “You have to do it, experience it, make it.”

She spends more than half of the demo focusing on mixing different kinds of dressing, explaining that all good dressings have just three basic ingredients: oil, vinegar and minced shallots. Cotner also talks about the importance of clarity when shopping for white wine vinegar, what effect each type of vinegar (red and white wine, for instance, champagne or balsamic) has on food, and declares that balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, is the best. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Wine and Dine

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Short rib and bone marrow

Twelve years and counting — and, aside from devoted loyalists, many locals don’t even know that Upstairs 2 exists. Executive Chef Maiki Le, formerly of Belcampo, agrees that this is a unique restaurant “in a variety of ways.”

The restaurant sits atop The Wine House, L.A.’s largest wine store, a stone’s throw from the 405. Inside, the décor is not your usual L.A. space. It’s as if you’ve traveled back to ’50s Palm Springs or an old Las Vegas showroom.

“The Knight family has owned and operated The Wine House for over 40 years,” says Le. “Their expertise in wine and beverages keeps the beverage program at Upstairs 2 relevant and at shockingly low markups.”

So yes, Upstairs 2 is as focused on the wine as it is the food, and not surprisingly hosts a variety of wine dinners year-round.

But what might stand out the most as you dine in this romantically lit restaurant is that so many of your fellow diners are regulars, chatting with the waitstaff and feeling right at home. That’s something Chef Le loved about the place, but it was intimidating, too. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.