Travel-Inspired is a new guest-chef series hosted by chef Brandon Kida at Hinoki and the Bird. The first chef to take over the Hinoki kitchen on Sunday and Monday evenings is Perfecto Rocher, formerly of smoke.oil.salt and Lazy Ox. I had not tried chef Rocher’s cooking before, but I heard his paella was excellent and was excited to hear that his Sunday dinners would be a family-style paella night at $55/person—Monday dinners would be longer tasting menu at $85/person. I signed up for the first night of service using Reserve.
The menu on the first night consists of four appetizers, from which each diner can select two, as well as three paella selections, which is meant to be shared by 2-3 people, and one dessert. A trio of cocktails by Jeremy Lake was created especially for the series. I decided to try the Amario Lopez (not sure if pun on the Saved by the Bell actor-slash entertainment host’s name, or some other reference that went over my head), which was good but was a little too potent for my taste, having no mixer in it at all, but I’d consider myself a relative lightweight when it comes to alcoholic beverages.
Jeremy Lake's Amario Lopez: dry gin, amontillado sherry, campari, sweet vermouth, lemon essence. #amariolopez #cocktail #gin #sherry #campari #vermouth #lemon @jeremy_lake @travel.inspired @perfectorocher @hinokibird @reserve #travelinspired #perfectorocher #paellanight #hinokiandthebird #centurycity #betterdining #theoffalo
The two appetizer I selected were the Gaspatxo de Carlota, a refreshing carrot soup with crispy bits of jamón serrano floating within, and the Fesol de bajoqueta, a light yet rich dish of green beans, chorizo, and a fried egg.
For the main course, I selected the seafood option, Fideua de Senyoret, which was made with noodles instead of rice. I am an absolute novice when it comes to paella, so I was a little surprised to find that only the bottom half of the seafood that dotted the large paella pan was cooked, while the top half was still raw. I wasn’t instructed to do so, but I believe I was supposed to have stirred up the ingredients as soon as the pan was brought to my table, so the residual heat could continue to cook the ingredients.
Fideua de Senyoret: squid ink pasta fideua, shrimp, baby calamari, halibut, garlic citrus aioli. #fideuadesenyoret #squidink #fideua #shrimp #calamari #halibut @travel.inspired @perfectorocher @hinokibird @reserve #travelinspired #perfectorocher #paellanight #hinokiandthebird #centurycity #betterdining #theoffalo
The seafood in the dish was very fresh, and I enjoyed the mildly bitter astringency of the squid ink in the pasta, which was consistently al dente throughout the entire large pan. I actually wished that the dish had a little more textural contrast, though I’m not sure if the noodles are supposed to crisp up on the bottom of the pan like the desired rice socarrat crust that I’ve been told great paella should have.
The meal ended with a delicious Citrius Crema catalana dessert, which did have some textural contrast between the orange custard and crispy caramel pearls and sea salt flakes. Unfortunately, the patio had gotten so dark by that point that I did not get any usable shots of the dish.
Which brings me to the first issue I had with my meal. While my needs for lighting are different than the typical diner’s (due to my desire to take photos for my Instagram feed and this blog), I actually saw folks at other tables using their cell phones to light up their dishes, not for photographic purposes, but to see their food to be able to eat it. To get the shots above with my camera, I had to be obnoxious and use my phone as an external light source.
The second issue I had was with my bill. Two beers from the adjacent table were accidentally added to my check, an honest mistake that is normally easy an easy fix. In this case, however, since I used Reserve to book my table, one of the features of the app is not having to deal with the check at the end of the meal, as it is paid for through the app. With that convenience comes the rare inconvenience of adjusting a bill after it’s been closed out, if there’s an error (which, of course, was not on Reserve’s part). But the restaurant staff was professional and eventually got it all squared away.
Overall, I enjoyed my first taste of chef Rocher’s cooking, and the Travel-Inspired concept is a great one. I hope they can improve on the lighting issue. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to one of the Monday night tasting menus this month, but I’m looking forward to seeing what other chefs Brandon Kida invites in the future. Chef Rocher continues his run through the month of October; the Monday night tasting menus look interesting, based on the sample menu on Travel-Inspired’s website.
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Hinoki and the Bird
10 W. Century Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Tastemade, the LA-based food-centric video network, used to hold these free food events called Bite Clubs. I attended a few and always had a great time, especially at their Mardi Gras-themed one earlier this year. They hadn’t held one in a while, but then recently they announced that they were launching a new event series called Tastemade Gallivant.
While the previous events were always free, this new one would cost $40, but the line-up, which included Nancy Silverton (Mozza Restaurant Group), David LeFevre (MB Post, Fishing with Dynamite, The Arthur J), Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal, Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s), Ray Garcia (Broken Spanish, B.S. Taqueria), and Ari Taymor (Alma) made the price well worth it.
In addition to the headliners above, we were plied with tasty bites from a half dozen other participants, including Howlin’ Ray’s (review), Belcampo Meat Co. (review), Smoke’s Poutinerie, Starry Kitchen, Phorage, and Corazon y Miel. For drinks, beer from Goose Island, wines from Cape Classic, and cocktails from Freddy Smalls, Corazon y Miel, and Broken Spanish lubricated the guests. Desserts were handled by Paloma’s Paletas and event sponsor Tillamook, who handed out ice cream sandwiches!
Despite having thrown several Bite Clubs in their studios in the past, Tastemade Gallivant was not without its first-time jitters. While past events have always been packed and lively, it never felt overwhelming. Gallivant felt too crowded at times, and, because Tastemade placed some of the participants outside, including along a narrow alleyway leading up to the studio, gridlock was a real issue.
I was able to try all the dishes at the event, but I noticed some of the participants ran out of food really quickly. While Alma was billed as hosting the hour-long Early Access period, I think folks with General Admission tickets probably assumed they would be able to try chef Ari Taymor’s food, but they pretty much stopped serving right as the main event started. Likewise, a comment on Instagram stated that Jon & Vinny already ran out of their dish by 7:35 PM, just 5 minutes after GA folks were let in.
Overall, I still think the inaugural Tastemade Gallivant event was a roaring success, and I look forward to the next one. I think if Tastemade reduces the number attendees just by a little bit, it would be that much better!
Below are some of my favorite bites and/or shots from the event; fortunately the two coincided rather frequently. For all of my pictures from Tastemade Gallivant, check out hashtag #offalogallivant on Instagram!
Broken Spanish's Surfer Rosa: Pimms, Ancho Reyes, Lemon, Strawberry Shrub. @brokenspanishla @mikelay2 #surferrosa #cocktail #pimms #anchoreyes #lemon #strawberryshrub #brokenspanish At Tastemade's Gallivant event. @tastemade #tastemade #gallivant #tastemadestudios #santamonica #theoffalo #offalogallivant
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1814 Berkeley St.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
LA Weekly throws some pretty good food events throughout the year, including The Essentials, Tacolandia, Burgers & Beer, and on October 18th is Brunch at the Races. They’ll have 30 restaurants serving brunch-centric meals at the Santa Anita Park racetrack. Tickets are on sale now, but you can win a pair of General Admission tickets by entering the giveaway below. I’ll pick a winner on October 5th!
Angeleno Magazine‘s 13th annual Live & Dine LA event took place on Sunday, September 20, 2015. Celebrating the magazine’s “sweet sixteen” years in print, the event took place at the Fairmont Miramar and featured 40+ restaurants. The event space was split between the food area, which surrounded a very large tree providing shade to half the space, and an entertainment space with the musical stage and small lounge areas that looked like magazine covers come to life.
The extended heatwave that Los Angeles has been experiencing has finally reached the collective consciousness of the participating chefs. I’ve never seen a larger concentration of raw and/or cold dishes at one event. I could literally count the number of hot dishes on one hand! And while I heard more than one complaint from attendees about eating yet another ceviche or tartare, I was as happy as a (raw) clam!
Seafood definitely made the strongest showing at the event! Aestus had a refreshing tomato ginger soup with crab, while Bombo served a tasty grilled shrimp cocktail. Even Barrel & Ashes got in on the fish game with its smoked trout rillette, topped with my new favorite garnish, fried capers!
Bombo's Veracruz Shrimp Cocktail (tomato, cucumber, marinated onion in tomatillo, jalapeño salsa, mustard greens, Napa cabbage). @bombofoods #veracruz #shrimpcocktail #shrimp #bombofoods @angelenomagazine #angelenosweet16 #livedinela2015 @fairmontmiramar #fairmontmiramar #santamonica #theoffalo #offalolivedinela
Barrel & Ashes' Smoked Trout Rillette w/Seeded Rye, pickled onions, microgreens, fried capers. @barrelandashes @michaelkahikina #smokedtrout #rillette #rye #capers #barrelandashes @angelenomagazine #angelenosweet16 #livedinela2015 @fairmontmiramar #fairmontmiramar #santamonica #theoffalo #offalolivedinela
Amphibious assault came in the form of two of my favorite dishes of the event, The Little Door‘s duck & fig toast, also one of my wife’s top picks, and Terrine‘s crisp yet juicy fried frog legs, one of the few hot dishes served.
Landlubbers, though, were a little more limited in selection, though the options available were quite good! Faith & Flower served a simple yet delicious steak tartare, while the Fairmont’s own FIG drew crowds with its grilled lamb bao buns.
Love & Salt's Freekehlicious Salad: 5 grains, 5 herbs, shaved radish, black currants, toasted hazelnuts. @loveandsaltla @chefmichaelfiorelli #freekehlicious #salad #loveandsalt @angelenomagazine #angelenosweet16 #livedinela2015 @fairmontmiramar #fairmontmiramar #santamonica #theoffalo #offalolivedinela
Surprisingly, only a handful of sweets were served. Meal and a Spiel‘s strawberry and peach cobbler was raw and vegan (and delicious), while Maru served a brownie topped with beautifully brûlée‘d marshmallow fluff.
I rather enjoyed doing a top x listing like I did for LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade, so I’m going to try it again. The aforementioned amphibious dishes were my fourth and fifth favorite bites of the event (you can decide in what order). So what were my Top Three dishes from Live & Dine LA 2015?
3. Duke‘s dish of raw salmon ceviche/poke/tartare/something, with sesame oil and flying fish roe, hit all the right notes with me. I was only disappointed about one aspect of this dish, and that was me not getting the full description of it. I even enjoyed using the trio of skewers bound into a trident for a semi-primal eating experience.
2. The Arthur J‘s sirloin tartare was simple yet extremely delicious. I don’t generally prefer a fine mince or grind for my tartares, but it allowed the flavor of the beef to really come through while still retaining a pleasant texture. It was my favorite non-seafood dish of the event!
1. Mainland Poke‘s spoons of raw fish goodness combined fresh salmon with a variety of interesting and delicious ingredients that made it my wife’s favorite dish of the event, and I wholeheartedly agree. It was quite unique and really made me want to go try their shop sometime!
People keep asking me what food event has been my favorite, since I’ve been to so many. It’s really difficult to say, since each has its own quirks, pros and cons, etc. I really like the relatively small scale of Angeleno Magazine’s Live & Dine LA. I like that some of the restaurants tables are in the middle, so we can see some of the prep work happening behind the scenes. The chefs just seemed a little more accessible compared to the events with the big enclosed booths.
Incidentally, I just want to say that chef David LeFevre (of MB Post, Fishing with Dynamite, and The Arthur J) has just been killing the food festival circuit lately, with strong showings at LAFW and LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade (even squeezing in the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival in between) and now here as well! Next he’ll be at Tastemade‘s Gallivant event this Thursday! Can’t wait to see what he’s serving!
For more dishes from Live & Dine LA 2015, check out hashtag #offalolivedinela on Instagram!
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Angeleno Magazine’s Live & Dine LA 2015
Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
101 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
So I’ve been attending a few food festivals lately, and it turns out the fall is just as busy, if not busier, than the summer. Most of the events mentioned in my fall preview post have come and gone, and I got to attend many of them (see my recent blog posts for coverage). However, many more have cropped up, and, even though September is almost over, there’s still some great event left in the month!
Sunday, September 20, 2015: Later today, Angeleno Magazine will be holding it’s 13th annual Live & Dine LA. Celebrate 16 years of the magazine’s publication with over 40 restaurants including Aestus, Bestia, Chaya, Faith & Flower, Knuckle & Claw, Le Comptoir, Spago, The Bazaar by José Andrés, and more, at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica. Event benefits Project Angel Food. Tickets still available!
Thursday, September 24, 2015: Food-centric video network Tastemade is launching a new event series called Gallivant, which replaces their free Bite Club events (review). Even though Gallivant is not free, take a look at the line up—the graphic below doesn’t even mention that Howlin’ Ray’s, Starry Kitchen, Corazon y Miel, Phorage (and more) will be there too—the $40 ticket price is totally worth it!
Friday, September 25, 2015: If fantastic seafood and handcrafted DeLeón tequila cocktails in an intimate yet hip setting are more to your liking, Ceviche Project (review) is having their next pop-up at Skybar in the Mondrian Hotel on the 25th. [Update: I originally stated this was on the 24th, which is incorrect. It is on Friday, September 25, 2015.]
Saturday, September 26, 2015: Before they go full-time with their gig at Button Mash, Starry Kitchen is thowing an AYCE Crab Fest to raise funds for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. $75 (pre-sale) gets you as much Singaporean chili crab legs, buttermilk beer beignets, and garlic noodles you can eat!
As you can see, September still has quite a lot to offer! I’ll also recap some of the events coming up in October in a separate post by the end of the week. As a sneak peek for that, I’ll just mention that Pier del Sol, a fundraiser for Special Olympics Southern California, in its 19th year, will be taking place on Sunday, October 11th.
If you know of any events or festivals taking place in September that you think I’d be interested in, please comment below!