Category Archives: Restaurants

A Big Bad Breakfast for Mother’s Day

Fluffy, oat-fortified pancakes to greet the day.

Fluffy, oat-fortified pancakes to greet the day.

 

When I was growing up, my oldest brother and I would often wake up early on Sundays to stir up a big bowl of batter for waffles for the entire family.

Nowadays, with my husband’s predilection, it’s pancakes all the way.

Are you Team Waffle? Or Team Pancake?

It’s funny how most households seem to favor one or the other.

“Toasted Oatmeal Pancakes” might just satisfy both camps. That’s because of the toasted steel-cut oats that not only fortify the batter, but get sprinkled on as each pancake cooks, lending bits of crunch here and there like the edges of a waffle might.

The recipe is from “Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day” (Ten Speed Press, 2016) by John Currence, the James Beard Award-winning chef who owns Big Bad Breakfast in Alabama. You might also know him from his appearances on “No Reservations,” “Mind of A Chef,” and “Top Chef Masters.”

BigBadBreakfastBook

Of course in this case, the operative word “bad” really means “good.” This is breakfast done boldly, with plenty of excess. Among Currence’s “Ten Commandments of Breakfast” is “Thou shalt slather with butter,” and “Though shalt hold no meal higher than breakfast.”

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part II: Connie & Ted’s, RiceBar, Apple Pan and Shake Shack

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

Connie & Ted’s

Chef Michael Cimarusti has the utmost reverence for seafood. After all, his haute Providence has won every acclaim imaginable for its attention to seafood.

Now comes Connie & Ted’s, a West Hollywood seafood joint at the other end of the spectrum, a modern-day clam shack that treats seafood with equal esteem but in a much more laid-back atmosphere.

On a sunny day (which of course is most every day in Los Angeles), there’s no better place to be.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted's.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted’s.

A trio of chowders.

A trio of chowders.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

There are three chowders on the menu: New England, Manhattan, and Rhode Island. The best part is you can get a sampler of all three ($11), which comes with baby doll-sized oyster crackers.

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part I: Taco Maria, Shibumi, and Mian

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile -- a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile — a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

 

I may have been in Los Angeles last month for only four days, but I did some major eating in that short time. Come along for a taste.

Taco Maria

In a building inside SoCo design complex in Costa Mesa is the OC Mix, a mini marketplace of fun trendy shops and small cafes.

It is here you will find Taco Maria. Its artsy locale is fitting because this is high-concept Mexican food by a chef who used to cook at Coi in San Franciso and Commis in Oakland.

Nope, this is not your standard enchilada- or burrito-drowned-in-cheese kind of place. While it serves a la carte lunch, it turns into prix fixe-only at night. And what a fine parade of dishes you’re in for with the $75 four-course meal (wine pairings are $35 extra), which is quite reasonable for what you get.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Each course offers a choice of two dishes. So if there are two of you dining, you can order the entire menu and share tastes of everything, which is what my husband and I did. Sit at the counter in front of the small kitchen, and you can watch the cooks in action.

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Chinese Food Reimagined At Mister Jiu’s

Chef Brandon Jew expediting in the kitchen of his Mister Jiu's.

Chef Brandon Jew expediting in the kitchen of his Mister Jiu’s.

 

For many years, my Uncle George had his insurance office on Waverly Place in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He’d often take clients for lunch or drinks to Four Seas restaurant across the street. Back then, it was the place to socialize, a glamorous spot where so many friends and family members of my generation remember attending celebratory banquet meals.

So maybe it was appropos that my first visit to Mister Jiu’s, which reincarnated that space a year ago, came just a few weeks after my uncle’s passing last month. Making my way through that tucked-away street, I somehow felt I was walking in his shoes, seeing this venue past, present and future.

Chinatown stopped being a destination dining scene long ago for so many Chinese-Americans of my generation. These days, if we head here at all, it’s because we’re playing tour guide to visiting friends. But Chef Brandon Jew, who grew up in San Francisco, was lured here to create a restaurant that he hopes will reinvigorate this historic neighborhood.

Certainly, he’s succeeded in drawing more Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers to this area, as evidenced by the crowd I saw dining here on a Saturday night.

Original chandeliers from the Four Seas.

Original chandeliers from the Four Seas.

The open kitchen can be seen from the dining room.

The open kitchen can be seen from the dining room.

Located on the second floor, the restaurant has a wall of windows that overlook bustling Grant Avenue. The lotus-flower chandeliers from the original Four Seas have been polished to a gleam, giving a touch of elegant nostalgia to the space.

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Nancy Silverton’s Polenta Cake with Brutti Ma Buoni Topping

A cake for nut lovers.

A cake for nut lovers.

 

Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.

In my case, I always do. I’m the person who won’t even dive into a box of See’s candies unless it’s “nuts and chews.” For me, it’s M&M’s with nuts all the way. And I can happily munch on almonds by the handful, day or night.

This is a cake that appeals to nutty folks like me.

“Polenta Cake with Brutti Ma Buoni Topping” is from “Mozza At Home” (Knopf), of which I received a review copy. It’s the newest cookbook by Nancy Silverton, the chef who helped kick-start the modern-day artisan bread revolution. She’s also the chef/co-owner of Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and Chi Spacca, all in Los Angeles.

As Silverton writes in the book, this cake is the happy marriage of a classic polenta cake, and a traditional meringue and nut cookie called brutti ma buoni, which means “ugly but good.”

Crunch-a-licious.

Crunch-a-licious.

Personally, I prefer “distinctive” over “ugly” because I think that’s what this bumpy-topped cake is, owing to a profusion of almonds and hazelnuts mixed with egg white, honey, vanilla and orange flower water that’s strewn over the cake before it finishes baking.

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