Showing posts with label haute cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label haute cuisine. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Palate Food & Wine, Glendale - Dining in David Lynch's Dining Room

Palate Glendale Menu


***Update 8/8/08***
Since writing this posting, I actually came here another two times in the SAME week. I've added a few more dishes and sat in a different part of this large restaurant. Right now, they are having wine tastings from 5-8 pm on Fridays and 2-5 on Saturdays for a limited time only. I can tell you that the back dining/bar area by the wine shop is a ton of fun. And not to mention that the flight of wines are complimentary. Sign me up please.
******

You know when you're a kid, your brain is like a sponge – soaking in everything and anything around you. You're told certain things. You're told to act a certain way. You're told to trust whatever elders tell you. Naivete is a part of the learning process that dissipates at different rates for everyone. As for soaking up things, I had a hard time putting disturbing things I have seen in the trash can side of my memory. There are two movies that have not left the better half of me because they are just not right – 'The Shining' and David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks'. Actually, I consider all of David Lynch's films to be unsuitable for a child's bedtime story. I can't remember what 'Twin Peaks' was about but there was this one scene that was just STRANGE. There was a midget in this large room decked out in black & white checkered tiling. He came from behind some heavy red drapes and insisted the viewer to sit down next to his green formica table. It made no sense – to anyone but Lynch of course. I don't know why I found it so disturbing but I still remember it vividly. And on a warm evening in July, Jeni and I decided to go out for dinner for our 2-year anniversary. It was a promising night of delectable food from an ex-Patina chef by the name of Octavio Becerra, wine from a place that not only sold and served wine, but also provided storage for those that have exhausted their Vinotemps. But all that was to change upon stepping into a place called Palate Food & Wine in Glendale.

I stepped in with J and we were immediately puzzled by the decor of this place. Very unique! All of a sudden I felt like I was in a David Lynch set. To my left was the hostess' stand. I was expecting that same midget man with a mini suit and hat to come around the corner of the stand any minute now, tapping me on my knee... asking if I had reservations and leading me to some green formica table. The dining area gave off this strong pink hue. The black & white checkered floors were now black & pink checkers. Large canvas prints with something that resembled a close-up of a biochemical lab experiment. Giant vases of grapes that only seemed to live in Alice's Wonderland. Lastly, large candles that seemed to make their way here from a Transylvanian yard sale. But I've never been into decor, so I'll have to toss the Lynch card out on this one because we heard SO MUCH about the food.

Palate Glendale Interior

Palate Glendale Candle

Palate Glendale Bartender - Antoine

Given the option to sit at the bar or eat with David Lynch, we chose the former. We were kindly greeted by the bartender, or sommelier, Antoine, who looked sharp and knowledgeable on wines. The wine prices here at Palate are really reasonable. We started off with a bottle of riesling that cost no more than $40, but was so nice and crisp. Just ask Antoine for it by name...
Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen.

Palate Glendale Bread

What kind of butter is this? It can't be Darigold, that's for sure because it was served at the perfect temperature with a dash of Fleur de Sel. Nice!

Palate Glendale Porkfolio

Porkfolio
I really find food puns annoying, but you know what, because the selection here was very good, I'm letting it slide. Included in this 'porkfolio' (*sigh), were prosciutto san daniele, speck di alto adige and salumi gentile.

Palate Glendale Nectarines

Something Pickled... Nectarines
This goes very well with the following dish. Pickled, sweet and textural.

Palate Glendale Mason Jars

Potted Berkshire Pork - Mason Jar

I didn't know you could mason-jar things other than jam or honey. I found my new pork-love and it's totally not good for you. These are called 'pork rillettes' and are a type of force-meats. Pork is chopped up, salted for a few hours to overnight and then cooked in its own fat. After it is shredded, it is refridgerated, allowing the fat to coagulate, creating a creamy padding of fat all around the beef. I watched J as she used her butterknife to smother some pork paste on to the bread, add cheese and porkfolio on it for 'garnish'. How can you not love a woman that is so sure about the decisions she makes? This was absolutely delicious. I put Josef Centeno's (formerly of Lot 1 Cafe) right behind Chef Becerra's.

Palate Glendale Rabbit

Lapin (Rabbit) - Mason Jar
Another deadly yet lovely sin bottled up in a jar. The rabbit tends to have a leaner, lighter flavor to it compared to the gluttonous Berkshire pork. I did enjoy this and will eventually be trying the whole potted collection. But for me, I'd pick pork over almost anything.

Palate Glendale Albacore Salad

Albacore Confit Salad
Antoine explained that the tuna is 'confit-ed' overnight. The result is a moist, chicken-like taste to the albacore tuna. The salad is brought together with a VERY bright vinaigrette which really wakes the palate up like a hair-of-the-dog drink at 7 am.

Palate Glendale Summer Truffles

Summer Truffles with Poached Egg & Cream
Saying no to this dish is like turning down a double date with Natalie Portman and Scartlett Johannson. I fall weak when it comes to anything with eggs. The wine director kindly explained to me how this classic French dish is made. In a little jar, an egg is added to cream along with romano cheese. It is then tempered in boiling water for 7 minutes and then garnished with paper thin slices of summer truffles. I'm not really into truffles because of its strong aroma, but the appropriate usage of it in this simple, yet classic dish makes palatable sense. I can eat a dozen of these. I watched J, who doesn't really like eggs, eat hers and waited for her to pass it on to me. Smile.

Palate Glendale Corn Ravioli

Corn Ravioli
Another dish I cannot say no to... corn PLUS ravioli. Chef Becerra told us that before he worked for Patina, he worked in France and Italy and I'm pretty sure this is a dish that was made shortly after his trip back to the U.S. The ravioli dough is really nice – chewy and textural from the quick boiling. The corn inside is pureed and goes well with the butteriness of this dish.

Palate Glendale Scallops

Seared Scallops & Shelled Beans
Come to think of it, there isn't anything out there that I WON'T eat. I know I love eggs and corn, but I forgot to add that I adore scallops. To me, they bring back that nostalgic feeling of eating tater tots in 3rd grade. Another great dish.

Palate Glendale Veal Breast

Veal Breast and Spätzle
As I was shooting this photograph, the compound butter on top started to melt and slowly glided over the veal cliff. This is a sexy dish. Braised veal, chewy spätzle, spinach and a savoy reduction sauce. Excuse me, Antoine, where is the nearest hotel room?

Palate Glendale Pork Belly

Pork Belly with Faro & Cherries
And this is the reason why I rip up my bloodtest results. I live for pork belly. Before we even looked at the menu, we knew we were going to order this because it had mentioned so many times on reviews. And I could see why. Although the ratio of fat to pork was a bit unbalanced, the crisp texture of the perfectly fried skin, reduction sauce and moistness of the meat made me wish I could dive into this. I have to say, out of the 10-12 times I've tried some variation of pork belly, this one makes me kow-tow to the chef. Given another bottle of wine from Antoine, I might have done that, much to J's disappointment.

Palate Glendale Rabbit2

Rabbit
I love rabbit but almost everytime I eat it, it's dry. *Dylan gets down from his stool and assumes the kow-tow position* Yes, another delectable dish. You can see the beautiful pink hue of the meat, a sign of well cooked game. Also within the meat, I believe is ground rabbit mixed with nuts and herbs. All this plated over some buttery polenta.

Our bill came out to $140. If you take out the two bottles of wine, we pretty much only spent $60-70 on food, and we were full. Palate definitely offers some great food and wine at great prices. We then met the manager, who gladly gave us a tour of the restaurant, wine store and wine vault area. I can tell you that the Lynch decor didn't stop there, but it all made sense. The decor was a reflection of the variety of palatable foods Becerra offers. The decor is unique, but not tacky. The flavors are everywhere, but done in a unique way. Nothing is too over the top, and nothing is too dull. I 'got it' afterwards. I was also very drunk.

Palate Glendale Lamb

Palate Glendale Wineshop2

Palate Glendale Wineshop

Palate Glendale Octavio Becerra

Two thumbs up for the people of Palate Food & Wine. I have you marked down on my calendar for a future dinner very soon and I can't wait. I highly recommend sitting at the bar and talking to Antoine – he's cool. Thanks for reading. And thank you David Lynch for disturbing the hell out of me for so many years.

Palate Food & Wine
933 South Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
(818) 662-9463
www.palatefoodwine.com

Eat Drink Style The Love for Food and Jeni: How Food Brought Us Together

It's 6:30 pm on a Friday in June. Jeni stands in front of me with a bewildered look. And I just stare at her. Rewind 2 years back.

When I first started my blog nearly three years ago, my intentions were simple. I was bored and the idea of writing a blog interested me. The one thing I did know a lot about and could contribute to others was a knowledge of food. My parents had raised me on the staples of Chinese food, which was basically your on-sale vegetables, noodles and soups made with bones that would normally be fated in a trash can. But what they passed on to me, was more than a simple appreciation for food and the sustenance it provided – no matter what shape or form it took. I wanted to express my appreciation for their love and care by writing about my experiences with food. And measure how much of a pig I actually am.

Three years of writing about food. Obsession. Too much time on my hands. Sure. Both if you would. As you can probably tell, I love food and I have the pounds to prove it. Just look at my profile photo. Ugh! In four years, my weight jumped nearly 15 lbs. and you know what, please give me some more because I am nowhere near done exploring the food of all cultures. I won't be done until the day I have to be forklifted out of my bed just to go to the bathroom. *beep* *beep* *beep* Dylan coming through.

During the three years of writing, I have learned a lot about food, cultural differences, myself, friends, family and mostly, respect. I have learned to never say the terms "the best in the world". I have learned that you cannot please every one in this world – no matter how good of cook you are. I have learned that denying a culture's food because of ignorance and unfamiliarity is the most insulting thing ever. I have learned that what you may not understand may be the key to another culture's survival. I have learned that food sets the stage for everything involving social interaction. And as you'll read in a few paragraphs, I've learned that food can even change the course of two people's lives. One thing remains important, food revolves around everything we do or feel – home life, work, birthdays, dating, weddings, funerals, reunions, etc.

When I first started writing, there were no more than 10-12 Los Angeles food blogs that I was interested in reading. And maybe 3-4 outside of the area. It was much easier to keep up with everyone's eating. Even within that group, the best ones were more than reviews about food; it was those that offered storytelling which made it compelling. Writers that simply said "this was good" or "this was bad" really didn't generate solid readership. Food had been such a big part of my upbringing and I was interested in seeing what/why food was important to someone. After the first year, I developed 'friendships' with many of these bloggers. Though I had never seen their photo (anonymity is a big thing) or met them in person, I could tell a lot about someone by the way they ate.

Especially with a girl named Jeni, who ran a blog called Oishii Eats.

For a few months, I read her postings. I was attracted not only by her looks, but by the food she ate. She ate everything. Low end... high end. Hole in the wall... paintings on the wall. On the street... on sticky-elbow tables. She was in a sense like me. But what I liked most about her was her open-mindedness and respect for a culture's food. We were both from the same college and had mutual friends, but we never crossed paths once.

Less than a year later, I decided to set up a long-overdue meetup between the stomachs and minds of the LA blogosphere at Musha in Torrance – and everyone was stoked. Jeni and I had already been talking to each other over IM and in a sense, we were friends that had never met. It was an exciting day for everyone that attended because not everyone had met in person. I had met Jonah of LA Foodblogging, Pam of Daily Gluttony and Kristy of Best of LA previously (my friend's fianceé). That night, I was late due to traffic on the good ol' 405. I found my group, all 16 of us, waiting outside. I said Hi to everyone, and saved the best for last... Jeni. I was interested in her and I think we could both tell that it was a long overdue meet up. I smiled at her and she waved back. She handed me Japanese books that I needed for my trip to Japan the following week. We had decided previously that we would sit next to one another because we already 'knew' each other. Everyone had a great time. The food was good and the drinks went around. But what I wanted mostly was to talk to Jeni, but I was so busy trying to play host. At the end of the night, I said bye to everyone and hugged Jeni and told her we'd talk when we get back. We ended up talking on the phone till about 4 am that night. It was just wonderful putting a face over a voice finally.

It wasn't long after when we had our first date. I knew it was a date because I could feel it. Instead of the usual nice dinner, we decided to go to a club and get stoopid. And for dinner, we ate tacos from a taco truck in Echo Park. We sat on red crates, eating tacos and drinking Jarritos. For the first time in a while, I was comfortable on a date. I didn't worry about eating properly or keeping my volume down. I didn't worry about impressing her. I was myself – dropping cilantro and onions on the ground, using like 80 napkins for 5 tacos and even broke the Jarritos bottle. We took photos of each other stuffing our faces and it just felt very natural. It was truly good times. Very Wonder Years-like. In a sense it was somewhat of a secondary coming-of-age. Jeni let me be who I wanted to be. And I hoped that she had felt the same way.

Fast forward two years to the present. It's 6:30 pm on a Friday in June. Jeni stands in front of me with a bewildered look. And I just stare at her. With a smile.

D: "Are you ready for your birthday surprise?"
J: "Ok!"
D: "Go to your closet and look under the blanket."

She runs over and lifts up some blankets.

J: "It's my brother's traveling backpack."
D: "No, it's mine. And it's packed."
J: "..."
D: "You've got 2 hours to pack. We're going somewhere."
J: "What do I bring???"
D: "The more questions you ask, the less time you'll have. I'm going to get us some food."

I watched her run back and forth like she was on some stupid gameshow with a $200 grandprize. It was hilarious – I wish I had a camera to videotape it. I left her place and headed over to Yuca's to grab a cheeseburger and cochinita pibil for dinner. She only had two hours to pack and would probably forget to eat! I came back half an hour later and found her still running back and forth. This was great. She tried to ask me questions to narrow down the possible destinations. But I shrugged every time. She didn't know that we would be flying anywhere.

It was now 8:30 pm and time to go. I had texted her brother to meet us in the carport and surprise her. We packed the stuff in the car and Jeni naturally headed for the driver side door – only to be freaked out by her brother, who was driving us both to LAX. Jeni screamed!

The next annoying question any one can ask besides 'are we there yet' is 'where are we going?" I heard this a good 30 times by the time we arrived at LAX. She kept naming off places in the U.S. and got cold shrugs from me. I told her brother to drop us off at Terminal 6 which is where Virgin America is. She screamed, thinking we're going to New York. We said bye to her brother and walked out. I stared at her and watched her puzzled looks.

J: "Are we going to New York?!"
D: "No."
J: "Where are we going then? There's only a flight to New York at this time!"
D: "We may need these."

I reached into my pocket and pulled out our passports. She shrieked in joy. At this time, I took out my camera and started recording her on video.

J: "Where can we be going?"
D: "Look at my shirt and you may get a hint."

I watched her eyes go down to my red 'Carne Asada' shirt and her eyes grew. I then pulled out some pesos and handed it to her.

J: "We're going to Mexico City!"

Jeni & I went to Mexico City (D.F.) in December and fell in love. For months on end, we dreamed about the delicious pastor tacos sliced thinly like pork belly – not the chopped up version we get here in LA. I knew there was nothing more she wanted than to be in Mexico City again. A birthday trip out here would simply be perfect. We stayed in an area called Condesa which many people compare to the East Village/Soho area of New York City. Tree-lined streets, cafes with young couples and delicious taco vendors made this a very special place for us. D.F. was only 3.5 hours away, yet worlds apart.

We had missed so much on our previous trip. We were on a tight schedule and coming back from an exhausting and emotional stay in Tulum, Mexico. We got our lovely Nikon D70 stolen on a bus when we fell asleep. We were angry and frustrated upon arriving in D.F. – we didn't want to do anything. But nothing cheered us up more than the vibrancy of the city, warmth of the locals and of course all the delicious antojitos (small meals; snacks). This is why Mexico City is so special to us; it was a turning point in our trip. And this trip was a makeup for everything we didn't get to do – such as eating at the popular restaurant, Contramar. Contramar is regarded as the hip place for young people to eat. I could care less how hip it is, I just want the food. Our friend Tokyo Astro Girl had eaten here twice and spoke highly of it – her word was reason enough to eat here!

Contramar Mexico City

Contramar2

Contramar1

Contramar3

Pickled onions and peppers. I have never had such a fresh version of these. All the ones I've eaten at taco trucks or at restaurants seemed to be reserved from last year's quinceañara . It was to our advantage to come here right when they opened to ensure freshness. I could've made a meal out of all these elements – tortillas por favor! And some water to abate the spiciness.

Contramar Tostadas de Atun

Tostadas de Atún y Cangrejo
¿Que recomiendes? Tuna and crab tostadas! You can't go wrong with a server's suggestion especially if you're in another country. When we travel, we usually try things we've never tried or can't get in the U.S. Screw the safe food. The tuna tostadas are the big seller here and I know why. 1/8" slices of tuna are marinated in soy sauce and orange juice and placed on top of freshly-fried tostadas with a spicy mayo, avocado and crispy-fried whites of scallions. A simple dash of lime and PacMan-sized mouth and you're good. Mmmmm. So fresh! The crab I loved as well, but this was the wife-stealer. For all the labor involved in removing the meat from crab, this isn't a bad deal at all. $14 for 4 tostadas.

Contramar Ceviche

Ceviche de Contramar
Next we had Contramar's ceviche special. This was not what we thought it would be. I prefer ceviche in smaller chunks and less sour. All I could taste was lime juice and mushy fish.

Contramar Pastor Fish Tacos

Pastor Fish Tacos
I like fish tacos. I like pastor. Can I have both? Si señor! From afar, this really looks like al pastor meat and even smells like it! The fish was moist, flavorful and delicious. The addition of the smoked pineapple adds the much needed sweetness to this spice-ful dish. I should have eaten more of these but at this point, I was STILL thinking about those tuna tostadas.

Contramar Caldo de Camaron

Caldo de Camaron (Shrimp Soup)
I fell in love with Mexican-style shrimp soup back in Tulum at this drive-by restaurant called La Bamba Jarocha. Because some f*ckface took our camera, our only evidence of that delicious soup can be found here. Our soup arrived in a small coffee cup with 2-3 pieces of shrimp. But what I was most stoked about was the use of Maggi seasoning in the broth. Oh how I love Maggi seasoning sauce. The soup was beautiful. I saw the rays of the sun breach through the clouds above and cupids hovered above with trumpets and harps. Absolute harmony.

Full as hell, we decided to eat even more because that's what vacation is all about. While Jeni was getting her Mexican-style ice cream (helado) at Neveria Roxy, I checked out this red truck across the street. There were about 5-6 people hovering around it like vultures. Could only mean one thing: food. I remembered this truck being mentioned in the Lonely Planet: Mexico book.

Taco Truck Guy2

We all love taco trucks, except for Gloria Molina, L.A. Count Board of Supervisors... but have you seen a taco truck, literally? This guy had his truck parked up on a sidewalk with a blue tarp connected from this truck to the nearby fence creating a portable 'roof'.

Taco Truck Guy4

Here you can see that an Asian vulture has arrived at the crime scene awaiting the grisly fate of its target.

Taco Truck Guy

A cleaver, broken piece of wood, plastic plates w/ waxpaper, meat and a truck. Simple yet beautiful.

Taco Truck Guy3

And to add some extra flavor, a juice-drenched hand tattered with spices.

Taco Truck Carnitas

Some of the moistest carnitas I've had.

El Califa Mexico City

But the party doesn't stop. After we took a nap, we were out and about again in search of our favorite pastor tacos within D.F.

El Califa Pastor Taco

Tacos al pastor is a dish that originates in Puebla, Mexico, by way of Lebanese immigrants. Which is why the use of the spit seems familiar – shawerma!

El Califa Pastor Taco2

On top of all the spits sit large pineapples like a star on a x'mas tree. The rising heat from the flames and roasting of the spit meat help cook the pineapple. After the cook slices off the meat, he does a quick flick of the wrist near the pineapple and lobs it on to your taco. Awesome. The spiciness of the pork and sweetness of the pineapple make for Mexican yin yang.

El Califa Costilla Taco

I have a favorite new cut of meat and it's not your typical ranchera steak; it's called costilla and is the rib section of the cow. Thin slices of rib meat are thrown onto an extremely hot griddle and cooks within 35 seconds. I topped these tacos off w/ some fresh onions, salsa verde and a few dashes of my favorite sauce, Maggi.

In a course of 6 hours, we had eaten at one restaurant and 2-3 taco stands. Full right? No. It was time for Jeni's birthday dinner at one of D.F.'s most popular restaurants, Pujol.

Pujol Mexico City DF

We rolled up to the restaurant in a cab and the first thing Jeni said was, "beautiful". I had done my research on this place and considered places like Aguila y Sol (closed) and Izote de Patricia Quintana. But I was interested in Pujol mostly because it was headed by a chef from the Culinary Institute of America in New York – Chef Enrique Olvera. Sold.

Contrary to reviews I had read about Pujol's service, we were given excellent service. From the beginning, we didn't have to raise our hands very often. The waiters came by quite frequently and checked upon us. The Chef de Cuisine even came out a few times for some tableside service – which was awesome. You would think that because we are foreigners that we might get neglected, but this wasn't the case. It also helps if you know a little Spanish and understand that there are no such things as burritos in Mexico City.

Pujol Aguacate Ravioli

Ravioles de Aguacate (Avocado Ravioli)
I expected to see a ravioli and was actually craving one, but I forgot that at any haute cuisine, familiar names for dishes are used quite loosely. This 'ravioli' consisted of shaved shrimp that's been lightly sautéed with spicy mayonnaise and sandwiched between two thinly sliced pieces of avocado (aguacate). Wow, so delicate and delectable. J wouldn't stop talking about this dish.

Pujol Nopales

Ensalada de Nopal Curado En Sal (Salt-cured Cactus Salad)
I tried cactus for the first time in the previous trip to Mexico – in Oaxaca specifically. If you haven't had cactus, it has a sliminess that is inherent in japanese mountain yams (yamaimo) and okra. This was served with a lemon sorbet, thinly shaved cactus, tomatoes and grated Mexican cheese. This dish was nice, and if it weren't for the ice cream, you'd be left with a slimy texture on your tongue.

Pujol Chapulines

Chapulines al Sartén
This is another delicacy I tried in Oaxaca – clay-toasted grasshoppers known as chapulines. This was Chef Olveras deconstruction of a grasshopper taco. The foam on top was made from tortillas, there's guacamole, radish and the protein. This wasn't our favorite.

Pujol Lengua

Lengua de Res (Beef Tongue)
But this was my favorite. I love beef tongue. Braised beef tongue over olive tapanade and fried onion ring. J gave me hers and I couldn't be more happy.

Pujol Fish & Mushroom Broth

Trucha (Fish in Mushroom Broth)
This was J's favorite... sous vide fish swimming in a pool of rich, earthy mushroom broth. The fish was unbelievably moist and went very well w/ the consomme.

Pujol Dessert

Pie Cremoso de Limón Verde (Fresh Yogurt & Green Lime Sorbet)
This was good as well. I've never had Mexican style yogurt.

After this 3.5 hour meal, J and I sat there looking at each other with comatosed expressions. I really needed to be forklifted back to my place – this was just too much food for us, on top of 5 different wines. The servers were very nice and hailed a cab for us as we paid for the bill, and because it was raining. I thanked the servers and told them I'd be back again, for this was truly a meal worth the money and dining experience. What I liked most about Chef Olvera's dishes was that he remained true to Mexican ingredients. It's easy for any chef to take the common items found in haute cuisine like pork belly, foie gras, diver scallops, etc. and add your own twist to it. But none of that was found on the menu.

As we sat in the cab, Jeni sat back with a tired gaze and she was about to get her last birthday surprise. And she didn't know it. We got back to our place and greeted the owner of the guesthouse and said good night. We walked up the stairs to our place. But before we could head towards the room, I took off my sweater and turned to Jeni.

D: "Are you ready for your last birthday surprise?"
J: "What?! There's more? No more, D! I'm tired."
D: "It's nothing big, come on."

I handed her my sweater and did my best terrorist-style blindfolding job. It looked like she had a black turban, which actually went well with her dress. I told her to stay there as I ran into the room. I opened the door, and what I saw, took me aback. I went back to the hallway to grab my lovely hostage and led her with one hand. We walked in slowly, hearing the creaking of the hardwood floor, and I shut the door. I took one more look at Jeni and the room we were in and asked her one more time.

D: "Are you ready for your birthday surprise?"
J: "...Yes."
D: "... Take off your blindfold, Jeni."

As she unraveled her sweater-blindfold, everything turned into slo-motion. I thought back to the time we met over 2 years ago and how we grew from two single people into a couple who could never be separated. I thought about the first time we ate on crates in front of a taco truck. And how we laughed and talked into the night. I never told her that she had a piece of cilantro stuck in her teeth the whole time, but it was okay because I didn't want to kill the moment. I thought about the sporadic weekend getaways to Santa Barbara we would take. I thought about the first time I met her parents and her brother. I thought about all the fights we had had. I thought about the time we rode on a scooter DRUNK in mainland China. I thought about how she never denied any type of adventurous food I ate. I thought about everything that happened in the 2 years that we've been dating and that it all came down to this particular time of the day in a guesthouse in Mexico City.

Jeni took off the blindfold and her eyes immediatly lit up to a room lit solely with candles, ridden with flowers on the floor and a man kneeling on one knee with something shiny in both of his hands. It took her almost 2 seconds to realize that I was on my knee and before I could speak a word, she started to cry. This was more than a birthday surprise for her, it was our engagement. And the best way to tell her that I love her.

And she said, "yes".

Read Jeni's story.

Thanks for reading.

Proposal

Taco Ring

Jumex Coleccion Sign

Eat Drink Style Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles - A Spontaneous Hundred-Dollar Snack

Osteria Mozza Los Angeles

On the way back from Audrey Kawasaki's latest exhibit at the Bergamot Station, Mayoi Michi, J & I drove with rumbling stomachs. We started to flip through our mental rolodex of late-night food options in the Silver Lake adjacent.

Soup noodles at Torung or Ruen Pair in Thai Town?
Tacos Arizas, the taco truck that catered our first date in Echo Park?
Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada? I wish! They close too early.
Two Tacos for $.99 at Jack in the Crack?
Fried Chicken at The Prince or Toe Bang in Koreatown?
Pho Cafe in Silver Lake? No, thanks.
Raw oysters and tasty fries at Hungry Cat? We didn't feel like drinking.


We couldn't decide on a place because there was a con for every pro. But heading on the 10 towards the La Brea exit, we both shot a slight grin... as though we knew what would be best for us right now...

Pizza.

Specifically, Mario Batali's & Nancy Silverton's delicious pie at Pizzeria Mozza. Beautifully-crafted dough with minimal, yet sufficient, toppings – it's what makes the pizza more than a delectable snack. We parked on Highland and crossed the street but instead, focused our attention on Pizzeria Mozza's sister restaurant, Osteria Mozza, which focused more on pasta and rustic dishes... but no pizza. Since we had already tried their pizza, this would be a good chance to try out Osteria. This year, we've been good with eating at home and spending less on extracurricular activities. Osteria was our little reward for wearing halos on our head for 2 months.

The main criticism on Osteria Mozza is the advanced reservation one must make in order to eat there. God, so L.A. But we've learned that some places may do that to create a hype. It was already 10:45 pm and we were hungry. We walked in, not knowing what to expect, and felt the vibe of good ambiance. Dimly lit with sparse lighting, the constant sound of indistinct chatter and silverware clanking on porcelain plates made us feel that we are at the right place at the right time. Even at 10:45 pm. I walked up to hostess and asked if it was possible to get a bar seat without reservations. He glanced over his shoulder with his stylish Armani Exchange glasses, the Malcolm X-style ones, and pointed at the corner of the bar. Nice.

Osteria Mozza3

Osteria Mozza2

Osteria Mozza1

He pulled us towards the 'cheese bar', where we could see four line cooks hustling and bustling. Two were busy working the expensive-looking deli slicers that looked like they were imported from Italy. Another cook was meticulously plating what looked like a burrata cheese appetizer. And the last cook, a woman with frizzy brown hair in her 40s who had to be none other than, La Brea Bakery's Nancy Silverton. We looked at each other and felt even more excited to sit at the bar. She wore an apron that was different from everyone else's, almost like a midwest-style denim dress. Not the most stylish, but gave us the feeling of motherliness with her cooking. All she needed was one of those wooden, beaded necklaces made with stuff from Michael's. Nancy Silverton is another one of our favorite female chefs that cook more with soul than anything. She fits right up there with Suzanne Goin (Lucques & AOC), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse, Berkeley) and Judy Rodgers (Zuni Cafe, San Francisco). We stared at every one of her moves. You can see her in the photo above.

Osteria Mozza4

Osteria Mozza5

As we pulled our new replacement for our stolen camera, we heard a voice behind us saying:

"Which model is that?"

We turned back to see that it was a server with a joyful demeanor and hair that was 30 minutes away from needing a re-gelling session. Very nice guy. After hearing about his new camera from Costco, flight-attendant wife, recent travels to Dubai and Buenos Aires and love for cooking... we got our menus and had to order within 5 minutes. Because our server was so into food we let him pretty much do the ordering. Here's what we had.

Osteria Mozza Burrata Bacon

Burrata Cheese with Bacon, Braised Escarole & Caramelized Onions
This was our server's recommendation. It was larger than we had expected, because after all, this was just snack time, not a tasting menu. And honestly, after one bite of this, I knew why Mario looks the way he does. But you know what, that's a good thing. He is a man that is so passionate about his food and tacky orange Chuck's and clogs. He's not going to cheat you out of food; he's going to knock you out the Italian way. The combination of creamy burrata cheese, sweet caramelized onions, soupy escarole on grilled bread was decadent, yet tasty. I only wish that they had divided this dish into 6 normal sized pieces vs. 2 boatloads.

Osteria Mozza Grilled Scallops Lardo

Grilled Diver Scallops with Lardo & Pink Peppercorns
In the book, Heat, by Bill Buford, he describes a dinner party where one of the guests was Batali himself. The man is more than generous, as he came to the party prepared... with a case of wine and a slice of deli meat known as lardo. The marketing term for that is white prosciutto, and let's just through that bullshit. It's pure lard that has been smoked and cured... and it is heavenly. Sure anyone can grill diver scallops, but only Batali would finish it with the near-translucent slices of one of the many delicious parts of the pig. Fat so thin and ghostly, it almost melts on your tongue. These scallops, although small and expensive, were cooked beautifully and I'm still thinking about them. But that's me, I'm a scallop-whore. I wanted another 5 skewers, but at $16 for this dish, would you drop $100 on this?

Osteria Mozza Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus with Potatoes, Lemon & Celery
Before I selected the diver scallops, I was declined by my own server. And I love that honesty. He asked if we could change our minds and direct our attention to this instead. And what he told us next really proved that he was the type of knowledge every server should have. Basically, he said that we've never had this style of octopus before. Hmm, how so? First, they get 6 large octopi – pack them in a large hotel pan and fill it to the brim with some of the finest Italian olive oil with salt & pepper. But before it's slowly poached at 175 degrees, a secret ingredient is added. One that NO ONE would guess, well unless you work at Osteria Mozza. Four corks from wine bottles! Ok, so now we were excited. The plate arrived and we immediately dove in. If you told me it was slightly braised chicken, I would believe you. This preparation for the octopi really tenderized the meat. It was awesome and for us, the winner of the night. The server said that if you didn't add the wine corks, the meat would not come out this way. Something about an enzyme that leaks out from the wine corks. Alton, please analyze.

Osteria Mozza Oxtail Ragu Tagliatella

Oxtail Ragu with Tagliatelle
And finally, what J and I were both dying to try... Batali's handmade pasta. After a few occasions at Cube on La Brea, I was entirely hooked on fresh pasta. It's a completely different beast than the dried pasta. The server said this oxtail was cooked with Fresno chiles, San Marzano tomatoes and soffrito. Soffrito is basically an Italian version of mire poix. It varies in different countries. In Cuban, Caribbean and Puerto Rico, sofrito consists of red bell peppers, garlic and onions and is a standard base for stews, soups and sauces. I could totally smell the red bell peppers in this dish, so sweet and homey. I wound up the ribbon-like pasta and tender oxtail with my fork... and wow. Simply divine. The portion, at first, may look small, but you have to know that oxtail releases TONS of rat. Along with the sauce of the braised stew, you're guaranteed to get a flavor in every bite. We woke this dish up with some fresh black pepper. So good.

Although this was a pricey 'snack', it was more than worth it. Mario and Nancy's food is decadent and will put you right to sleep... with sauce stains on your shirt and a big smile on your face. Thanks for reading.

For those that have been to Angelini Osteria and Osteria La Buca, I'd love to hear your recommendations because I'm eating there next!

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100