Life is Just a Bowl of Poke

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Photo by Erica Allen

Top Chef” alum Brooke Williamson likes to keep things moving.

Whether it’s opening a new restaurant — Runway at Playa Vista newcomer Da Kikokiko is her and husband Nick Roberts’ fourth — or changing her hair color from her natural honey brown to purple and now to blonde, Williamson likes to find outlets for her creativity.

“We could continue to do the same kind of cuisine,” says Williamson, sitting beside Roberts on an outdoor bench of Da Kikokiko (which means “the spot” in Hawaiian), “but we wouldn’t fulfill everything we want to do. Having so many different concepts allows us to think of a dish and have a place to put it.”

Williamson is referring to the couple’s growing restaurant empire, called Company for Dinner, which also includes Hudson House in Redondo Beach and Playa Provisions, The Tripel and the culinary boutique Tripli-Kit in Playa del Rey.

Sandwiched between Hopdoddy Burger Bar and the local branch of Chase bank, Da Kikokiko opened in October and offers all three of the couple’s favorite Hawaiian foods: poke, shaved ice and musubi (grilled spam on top of rice, wrapped together with a piece of seaweed).

“We’ve always liked Hawaiian food,” says Roberts. “We have a favorite place on Washington Boulevard, Rutt’s Cafe. I’m a Spam fanatic. I love Spam. This is an awesome collaboration between all of those foods.”

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

5 New Reasons to Eat in Santa Barbara

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Photo Credit: Kris Zacharias

Sure, you might not think about driving to Santa Barbara for a meal every day, but these five new restaurants make a compelling case for it. Whether you’re headed to SB or further north, put these eateries on your road trip culinary radar.

 Convivo

“Convivo” means to come together. And the restaurant has the big plates — created by a local potter — to justify the name. Shareable portions of spit-roasted chicken and strip steak arrive at the table still smoldering from the wood-burning ovens, dressed in North African chili pepper paste (harissa) and marinade (chermoula). “We burn food properly,” says chef Peter McNee, who, after 16 years of San Francisco living, decided to join forces with Larry Mindel (Il Fornaio group) to reinvent this restaurant at the Santa Barbara Inn. It’s a decision he doesn’t regret as he looks out Convivo’s windows at the sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean. The menu focuses on fresh; the menu is printed daily five minutes before the restaurant opens. Bread is not served before the meal, but the house-made focaccia – with basil oil, onion and caciocavallo – can, and should, be ordered for $2. For brunch, sample specks of heaven: maple bourbon bombolini (doughnut holes) with espresso, pistachios and pancetta.
901 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara. (805) 845-6789, convivorestaurant.com.

Read the full article at LA Weekly.

Stories to Warm the Soul

matzoh-ball-diariesMost Jews have fond memories about food. Throw some funny stories in the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a great show: the latest Salon Theatre Series from Jewish Women’s Theatre, “The Matzo Ball Diaries.”

Sitting in the back office of The Braid, JWT’s home base in Santa Monica for the past 2½ years, artistic director Ronda Spinak spills some of her own Jewish humor: “I was home from college for my family Seder at our friends’ house. The daughter of my mother’s friend whose house it was brought home, for the first time, her Orange County, Southern-born WASP boyfriend. He never probably met Jews before. He definitely had never been to a Seder. The Gefilte fish got put down. He took a big bite and said, ‘Probably taste really good if it were barbecued.’ We just all laughed.”

Spinak explains that the aim of JWT’s show is to explore on stage stories that connect us to food. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Heavenly Temptations

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Photo by Emily Hart Roth

When Red Bread closed its doors in 2014, regulars wondered what would replace the farm-to-fork breakfast, lunch and brunch spot on Washington Boulevard just west of Redwood Avenue. Few imagined life could get any sweeter.

But then Crave Dessert Company set up shop, offering brownies, bars, cakes, rice pudding and one of owner Heather Roseborough’s signature desserts: the Brown Butter Pumpkin Teacake.

Roseborough spoke to The Argonaut about the origins of these mouthwatering teacakes and some of her other popular baked goodies.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Teacake

Roseborough started playing around with the idea for this heavenly dessert when she was the pastry chef at Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City. She needed a gluten-free dessert and, as it turns out, the Brown Butter Pumpkin Teacake is better gluten free. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Born Again on Main Street

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Photo by Emily Hart Roth

“When you see the Fork in the Road, Take it.”

Those are the words that greet you when you land on the website of Fork in the Road, a popular Santa Monica eatery that reopened in December after a small kitchen fire caused it to close in 2015.

Owners and restaurateurs Spoon Singh and Tom Elliott are very excited to be back in business on Main Street, which Singh declares “is cooler than Abbot Kinney and Rose Avenue.”

These days, Main Street does seem more down-to-earth. It has a bar crawl scene and several high-end eateries.

“Main Street has a great vibe,” says Singh, sitting at the central communal table down the middle of the space. “It’s a real community street, very walkable. I’m excited that there are more restaurants than there used to be, and much better restaurants. This is a restaurant street, a stroll around street.”

Singh and Elliott are no strangers to success. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Sicily in the City

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Photo by Ryan Tanaka

Pistachio pizza? That addictive little green nut is not an ingredient you’d think should top a pizza but, in fact, it’s very popular in Sicily. And chef/owner Georgi Yaneff aims to bring a taste of Sicily to Santa Monica with O+O Sicilian Kitchen & Bar.

There are a few reasons for the name O+O. The first is the location, which is at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Olympic Drive. The second is that many of the menu items end in O: puppetto (meatballs), crudo (raw fish) and forno (pizzas), to name a few. And the third is that many of these dishes are round.

Catchy name aside, the real draw of O+O is the food. Yaneff is serious about Sicily — so serious that he handpicked a chef, Gianluca Maita, from the southern tip of Sicily. Maita moved to Los Angeles, with his mother and grandmother’s recipes in tow, for O+O. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Neapolitan in 90 Seconds

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Photo by Maria Martin

800 Degrees Pizza is on fire. In the last five years, two have popped up in Las Vegas, seven in Dubai, one in Tokyo and six in Los Angeles, including their newest restaurant last month in Runway at Playa Vista.

The concept is simple: fast, fresh, authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. And people are eating it up. Steve Overholt, CEO of 800 Degrees Pizza, shares a few secrets of their success.

What’s the philosophy behind 800 Degrees Pizza?

Our chef/founder Anthony Carron developed the concept during a dream almost six years ago. The fast-casual, build-your-own segment was gaining popularity with consumers all across the country. Nobody was doing it with pizza. He set out to develop a concept where he could serve authentic Neapolitan-style pizza using premium ingredients and cook it in 90 seconds. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

Mar Vista’s Christmas House

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Photos by Mia Duncans

Sitting comfortably one Saturday afternoon in mid-December in his Mar Vista home, David Gusman doesn’t look like Santa Claus. But in a few hours, that’s exactly who he’ll be representin’ — as he told one nine-year-old boy who questioned his authenticity.

That was obviously the right thing to say, because the tough kid revealed to “Santa” what he wanted for Christmas, and his mom, who was standing to his side, gave Gusman a big thumbs up.

Each December for the past four years, hundreds of kids have marched through Gusman’s front gate on Federal Avenue to sit on his lap, tell Santa what they want for Christmas (some even hand him a letter) and receive a gift: a candy cane, pencil and eraser. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

The Legend of Zelda’s

mini-donuts-chocolate“Hi Greg!” shouts Edward Klevens, the new chef/owner of Zelda’s Corner. The sandwich shop at the corner of Westminster Avenue and Speedway is probably best known for its cinnamon-sprinkled mini donuts, but Greg comes in about once a week for a cup of chili and bread.

“Hi Katya,” Klevens greets another customer, who hugs him and declares she’s addicted to his food.

Then there’s Andy, who has a special sandwich named after him, although it’s not on the official menu.

“It’s an East Coast thing,” explains Klevens. “I split the bread. There’s three kinds of cheese, homemade Italian dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, lots of onions, lots of meat on top.”

Klevens bought Zelda’s Corner about one year ago from the original owners, a local couple who set up shop at 9 Westminster Ave. in 1999, after a few years
of selling only mini donuts out of a much smaller space across the street.

Klevens is the type of owner who leaps to help a woman who asks for her sandwich to be wrapped to go, even with staff at the counter ready to serve. In other words, he’s perfect for a boardwalk sandwich shop that caters to the surrounding community. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Good Taste Takes Time

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Photo by Ximena Kupferwasser

As Raphael Lunetta stands on the veranda of The Georgian Hotel on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, he sees heaps of possibility. For the past six months, Lunetta has been the consulting chef for the historic 83-year-old art-deco property — helping to update everything from the menus to the silverware.

This is Lunetta’s first public project since his own JiRaffe closed in Santa Monica after an amazing 18-year run. He has future plans for a new restaurant at 2424 Pico Blvd., once the home of Josie, but on most days — like this sunny Saturday morning — he’s all in at The Georgian.

“When you take on something like this, it’s a hotel,” Lunetta starts, “you have be able to accommodate the guests’ needs and exist in that environment. But I also want to apply some of the style of cutting-edge boutique hotels. I also don’t want to strong-arm people into working one way. When you force something too much, your result is feeling like it’s forced. Everything takes time.”

Lunetta is taking his time with The Georgian’s transformation. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.