Monday, June 27, 2011

Brunch at Fig, Santa Monica

FIG restaurant is located at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, a block from the ocean. The kitchen is known for sourcing local and organic ingredients especially from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Although the restaurant does not have a view of the ocean, it does look out to the pool and garden area. I have been meaning to check out their brunch menu but unfortunatelyI didn't realize that brunch is only offered on Sundays. On Saturdays, you can only choose from their lunch menu that includes sandwiches, salads and entrees.

We ordered a round of drinks of beer, mimosa and wine. Unfortunately the wine was not chilled enough.

BBQ chicken pulled organic, coleslaw, smoked cheddar
I really enjoyed the sandwich. The BBQ pulled pork was tender and juicy, and lathered with the right amount of sauce that wasn't overly sweet or tangy. I typically don't like slaw but I was blown away with the coleslaw. The slaw wasn't dressed with too much mayo and it had a nice zing to it. The crunchy slaw and tender meat was a nice combination.

Fish Tacos with mango salsa, cilantro, crema
The fish tacos were extremely spicy, a bit too spicy for my friend but I can appreciate it. The fish was nicely grilled and topped with mango salsa and avocado slices. You can definitely tell that the ingredients are fresh and good quality.

Fish and chips, cod, fries, tartare sauce
The fish and chips were decent but nothing too special. I liked that the breading wasn't greasy and that they offered a nice portion of fish which tasted fresh. However the mushy peas didn't really do it for me. I also thought the fries weren't crispy enough. I usually finish every fry on my plate but I left half of mine on the plate.

Lunch at FIG was good, but apart from the BBQ sandwich, I don't think the other dishes were anything special. I think the brunch menu looks much more interesting (such as bacon waffle or lengua taco) so I probably won't venture back unless it's a Sunday.

Hits: chicken sandwich
Misses: not too unique or inventive
Rating: ***

Fig Santa Monica
101 Wilshire Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 319-3111

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mozza2Go: avoid the crowd and enjoy your pizza at home

I remember the first time I tried the pizza at Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza. I was a bit nervous. I don't like most cheeses and I definitely don't care for most pizzas. But after sampling their squash blossom and burrata pizza, I was a changed person. I realized that my repulsion towards cheese only developed because I had been subjected to pizzas with congealed and oily cheese. On the other hand, Mozza's ingredients are fresh and homemade. I was a convert.

When Blackboard Eats came out with a 30% discount for Mozza2Go, it was a good reason to relive my pizza experience. Mozza2Go is Mozza's takeout outfit, located right beside the restaurant in Hollywood. The valet will let you know where you can park for free while you hop out to pick up your order. The food smelt amazing that I was tempted to raid the pizza box on my drive home.

Chicken liver, capers, parsley & guanciale bruschetta
The bruschetta was topped with a huge heap of liver which had a really intense organy flavor. In fact, I ended up scooping part of the liver and eating it with additional crackers. I really liked the addition of chopped capers as they added a lemon tang that cut the heaviness of the liver. The crostini was crunchy, drizzled with olive oil and grilled, and topped with salty, crispy guanciale.

Meatballs al forno
$12 for 3 meatballs sounds like a hefty price tag but I really enjoyed this side dish. The meatballs which were made with beef and veal, and was well seasoned and tender. The tomato sauce was rich in flavor with a spicy kick to it.

Pizza alla Benno: Speck, pineapple, jalapenos, mozzarella & tomato
This is an upscale version of a Hawaiian pizza. The thin slices of speck were salty and delicate. The salty and sweet combination was just right. I also liked the addition of jalapeno which really spiced up the pizza.

Fennel sausage, panna, scallions, & red onion
This is one of my favorite pizzas at Mozza and definitely a must-order for meat lovers. The fennel sausage looked almost like little meatballs with little bits of fennel seeds. I love that there is minimal cheese in Mozza's pizza. Just really good quality meat and vegetable ingredients.

The food at Mozza is standout and I think it's been consistently good since its opening. The pizza comes in four slices and can be pricey at $17-$19 but I do believe it's worth the splurge once in a while. The crust was crispy and light but more importantly, the dough was appropriately seasoned. There was also the right amount of topping. They post heating instructions on the pizza boxes so the pizza will always taste just as good the next day.

6610 Melrose Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-1130

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Extravaganza For The Senses Food & Wine Event: Tickets on Sale

The Saban Free Clinic's "14th Annual Extravaganza For the Senses" Food and Wine event will be held at Gower Studios in Hollywood on Saturday June 16, 2011. Last years event was well planend and fun, with a great selection of food (wow! Angelini Osteria's Spinach lasagna and Momed's duck schwarma) and wine. They even had bubbly. I'm excited to see Michael's and Simplethings on the bill this year.

Get your tickets before July 1 for a discount.
P.S if you can afford it, go VIP which gets you early entrance to the event as well seating in the VIP section with shade! Do it. It's for charity.

Event information below:

The Saban Free Clinic will host the 14th Annual Extravaganza for the Senses. Featuring a lively backdrop of music and a silent auction, guests will enjoy unlimited samples of gourmet food and wine from more than 100 wineries and 40 Los Angeles area restaurants. All net proceeds from the event will directly benefit The Saban Free Clinic.

WHEN: Saturday, July 16, 2011
VIP: 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. General Admission: 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
WHERE: Sunset Gower Studios at 1438 North Gower Street, Hollywood, CA 90028
TICKET INFO: Tickets are $80 before July 1 and special VIP tickets are available for $200, which includes VIP parking, early VIP entry into the event, and seating in the exclusive VIP lounge overlooking the event. As of July 1, tickets are $100 and $225, respectively.

Visit for more information.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marea, NYC: Uni and Crab Pasta will forever be ingrained in my mind

I ended my trip to New York with Sunday brunch at Two Michelin Star Italian restaurant Marea. I actually didn't know much about Marea (gasp) but it came highly recommended among friends and bloggers. Their seafood and pastas are not to be missed, so I've been told.

We were one of the first guests to arrive but the restaurant filled up quickly. I liked the upscale yet modern decor with leather chairs and a lovely view of Columbus Circle.

I don't ever take photos of bathrooms, but I loved their sinks.

Their brunch menu includes 2 courses for $42. First course includes a choice from their crudo or antipasti section, and second course allows a selection from their pastas and entrees. It was a pretty easy decision for me as I knew exactly what I was going to get and had been thinking about it for days - their sea urchin and crab spaghetti.

Bread selection was a seven-grain and olive foccacia.

Assaggio Di Tre ~ tasting of three crudo (additional $9)
This is the way to go if you can't decide between their 9 crudos. I chose the sepia, octopus and razor clams. The sepia (cuttlefish) was served with soffrito and bottarga. I really enjoyed the sharpness of the bottarga. The razor clams were nicely seasoned and served with fennel and peperoncino. It was supple with an oceanic flavor. I loved the texture of the octopus which was dressed with chili oil, lemon and parsley. The flavors of the crudo were really clean and fresh.

Moleche ~ crispy soft shell crab, charred radicchio, orange, pancetta vinaigrette
The soft shell crab was uniquely breaded with polenta which resulted in a grainy texture. It was nicely seasoned. The slightly bitter radicchio was dressed with fresh citrus dressing.

Fusilli ~ durum wheat pasta, red wine braised octopus, bone marrow
This is apparently one of their most popular dishes. The wheat pasta was toothsome and the crevices really held on to the sauce. The large octopus tentacles were cut to the same length as the pasta so they almost blended into the sauce. The pasta was cooked in a rich tomato sauce that was full of flavor. Huge chunks of fatty bone marrow were mixed in the sauce and really added richness to the dish.

Spaghetti ~ fresh cut Semonlina pasta, crab, Santa Barbara sea urchin, basil
This dish was absolutely glorious. The fresh pasta was cooked al dente and mixed in completely with the creamy bright orange uni sauce. I can never get enough of pasta with uni as it has the right balance of sweetness and oceanic flavor. The fresh crab was topped on the pasta for an additional seafood touch. Crumbled breadcrumbs were added for texture and saltiness. Such a standout dish that I hope to be able to make at home.

Ippoglosso ~ herb crusted east coast halibut, broccoli rabe, sopprasetta, royal trumpet mushroom, cipollini
The halibut was perfectly cooked with a crusty coating, and was quite a generous portion. The mushroom had an intense earthly flavor and the soprasetta was sweet with a nice spice. Although the halibut dish was tasty, I think the pasta dishes resonated more with my party.

Petit fours of Pistachio Madeline, espresso and gooey salted caramel were presented. Who needs to order dessert when you can get this for free?

Brunch at Marea was exquisite. I was really impressed with the freshness of the crudo. The pasta dishes were definitely standout, perfectly cooked with hearty and comforting flavors, yet cooked with such finesse. They were also surprisingly served in rather filling portions. My only critique was that our waiter was a bit snobby and rather curt. Understandably, this is an upscale restaurant, but it was also during Sunday brunch, not a weekend dinner reservation. Otherwise, an excellent last meal to round up my New York trip.

Hits: crudo, uni pasta, fusilli
Misses: waiter a bit snobby

240 Central Park South,
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-5100

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gramercy Tavern, NYC (An American Classic)

I didn't realize that Gramercy Tavern was such a New York establishment. When you walk into the upscale restaurant or peruse the contemporary cuisine, you wouldn't realize that the Michelin One Star restaurant has been around for 17 years. You may not even recall that Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio was a previous co-owner and executive chef.

The restaurant is split into a bar area and a more formal dining room.

A prix fixe menu is offered in the dining room, three courses for $88. They also offer a six course tasting menu, including a vegetarian option.

Fresh bread with choice of plum ciabatta and sourdough.

Next, an amuse bouche of potato souffle with goat cheese and Parmesan. The souffle was airy and similar to a gougere with a pungent goat cheese essence.

Beef tartare with sorrel and farm egg
The delicate and fresh beef was nicely seasoned. After combining the poached yolk with the finely chopped meat, you get a lovely mixture that's rich and almost buttery. I liked that you could really taste the freshness of the meat, and that the tartare wasn't overpowered by capers and seasoning.

Duck fettucine with parsnips and brussel sprouts.
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The pulled duck confit was tender with pieces of fat attached. The sauce was slightly creamy, perhaps from the fat of the confit and the pasta combined. There was also a nice balance of sweetness and tang in the sauce. The leafy sprouts and parnips added crunch to the dish. Overall, a very hearty and comforting dish.

Rack and shoulder of lamb with hen of the woods mushrooms, sunchokes, hazelnut and collard greens
This dish is apparently a crowd favorite. The duo of lamb was perfectly cooked and not gamy. I really enjoyed the pairing of the chunks of sunchokes and earthy mushrooms. The lamb jus really combined with and flavored all the components on the plate.

Pork loin & belly with Heirloom beans and red rice
The pork loin was amazing, perhaps one of the juiciest piece of pork I've had. It was served with a smaller portion of pork belly that was was tender and fatty. I thought the red rice and beans were an interesting choice of sides which gave this dish a very Southern touch. The rice and beans were spicy and flavorful in a sauce that was infused with coriander and thyme. The dish was topped with emulsified pork skin which was a nice touch.

The last course is a dessert of your choice.

But first, a palate cleanser was brought over. Mandarin jelly, marscapone sauce and a meringue which was light and citrusy. It reminded me of a creamsicle. The sharp flavors really did a good job of cleansing the palate.

Sticky coffee fig cake and coffee ice cream
My favorite dessert of the night. The sticky coffee cake was gooey and sticky, with an intense caramel flavor. It was definitely very sweet and rich so a couple bites was more than enough.

Warm chocolate bread pudding with cacao nib ice cream
The chocolate pudding would be a chocolate-lover's dream. It was not super heavy or dense, and was moist in the center.

As if the meal wasn't filling enough, petit fours were presented with the check. Mint chocolate ganache, black sesame meringue and chocolate ganache tart.

I love when restaurants pack some fresh baked goods for breakfast the next day. We were given a homemade muffin which came in handy after the bars had closed.

The 3 course menu was more than sufficient food. Add on the amuse bouche, palate cleanser and petit fours and that's essentially six courses. I definitely walked away full and very satisfied. The food was spot on, flavorful and well executed. A truly lovely meal. After all these years, it seems that Gramercy Tavern hasn't missed a beat.

Hits: all the dishes, portions
Misses: get crowded, so make a reservation
Rating: ***1/2

Gramercy Tavern
42 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-0777