Category Archives: Dining

Dined & Dished Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants

Dined & Dished: Natas Pastries + Portuguese Pasteis de Nata

Being part Chinese, I’m no stranger to the ubiquitous egg custard tarts or dan tat that little kids and old folks, alike, clamor for at dim sum restaurants. They’re crispy, buttery, delicate and flaky on the outside and lightly sweet, rich, creamy and decadent on the inside.  They’re absolutely delicious and insanely addicting. I hate to admit it, but I’ve probably run over and tackled an old Chinese lady or two, trying to get my grubby paws on the last ones. What I wasn’t too familiar with, in spite of my Portuguese side, is the dan tat’s predecessor and European influencer, the Portuguese pasteis de nata. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across Natas Pastries, a Portuguese bakery and café in Sherman Oaks. I could finally do a taste off between both egg custard tarts and determine whose dessert reigned supreme.

I thought there would be a clear winner, but after trying the pasties de nata, I was just as confused as I ever was. Because to be honest with you, I couldn’t decide. They’re both so magically delicious. Making me choose would be the equivalent of having me choose which one of my kids I like better. Granted, I don’t have any children but you get my point. I just couldn’t do it. But consider my addiction for all egg custard tarts, dan tats, pasties de natas and all, reawakened. So next time you see me at the Portuguese bakery or the Cantonese dim sum restaurant, be sure not to stand between me and my dessert or somebody might get hurt. Consider yourself warned.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to a Portuguese bakery near you, here are my favorite recipes to try to make your own here and here.

If you’re wondering how a Portuguese pastry ended up in your local Chinese restaurant, here’s a quick history lesson:

Beginning in the 1550s, Portuguese merchants were heavily involved in trade with China by way of Macau. This resulted in Macau being rented to the Portuguese as a trading port in 1557, which subsequently led to Macau becoming a colony of the Portuguese Empire from 1887 through 1999. It goes without saying that during their extensive time there, the Portuguese definitely left their mark. And they did so in the form of a pastry. Their pasties de nata were so well received by the Chinese and interwoven into their culture, that to this day, the pasties de natas, dan tats, egg custard tarts or whatever you’d like to call them, can be found all over China, including their KFCs and McDonalds. In fact, they’ve become such a Cantonese dim sum staple that most people attribute the egg custard tart solely as a Chinese culinary invention without realizing its European roots. The Chinese variety, uses more of a puff pastry dough crust versus the Portuguese version that uses more of a layered phyllo dough crust and has a hint of lemon and cinnamon. Both are exquisite.

Natas Pastries

13317 Ventura Blvd  Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

818.788.8050

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Dined & Dished: Tar & Roses + Pig Tails

The great thing about growing up in an Asian household is that you’re introduced to a lot of “interesting” foods like chicken feet, sea cucumber and fish sauce that other eight year olds may not have so much as been made privy to, let alone been forced to eat. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, with a tiger mom like mine, even if it looked ugly, sounded weird or smelled bad, if it was placed in front of your face, you had to eat it. No ifs, ands or buts…well, maybe chicken butts…but that’s a whole other conversation. So learning from a very young age that being picky was not an option really cultivated my palate and openness to try and truly enjoy pretty much anything. Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods got nothing on my family.

So when I took a sneak peek at the menu at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica, I was super excited to see that they were serving crispy pig tails with sriracha, honey and cilatro. Finally! A childhood favorite that hadn’t been completely hijacked, bougie-fied, hyped up and played out by the culinary world just yet (ie: bone marrow, banh mi sandwiches, pig ears…I could go on and on). To be honest with you, I went in expecting to be disappointed but instead, I was very pleasantly surprised. No joke. It was really really good. Crispy, tender, flavorful, rich, unctuous, slightly sweet, perfectly salted and just enough spice. What more could a girl ask for in a pig tail?

We ordered a few different dishes that were all fabulous. But the standouts for me were definitely the following:

1. Crispy pig tails with sriracha, honey and cilantro
2. Wood roasted English peas with mint and sea salt
3. Skate wing with lemon risotto, pea tendrils and salsa verde
4. Duck liver paté bruschetta

So if you find yourself on the west side, be sure to pull your hair back, get your hands dirty and pig out.

Tar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Boulevard

Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310) 587-0700

Dined & Dished Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants

Dined & Dished: Fig & Olive + The Sister Zone

There’s this girl, I know. Her name is Julie. I call her Julie Bulie. Why? Because when you love someone, you can give them ridiculous nicknames that don’t really make any sense other than that it rhymes.

She’s surpassed best friend status and has found herself in the coveted and sometimes elusive “Sister Zone”. It’s a title that is rarely granted. But when it is, it is only granted upon you, once you’ve seen each other at your worst, as well as your best. Once you’ve lived together, made each other ugly-cry and still managed to love one another. Once you’ve cheered each other on and cheered each other up. Once you’ve prevented each other from making bad relationship, fashion, career and (insert noun here) decisions simply because their happiness is your happiness. And once you’ve celebrated each other’s successes, only to hold back each other’s hair after said night of excessive celebration. These friendships are hard to come by but when they do, they’re forever cherished.

Crostini Tasting: Manchego, Fig, Marcona Almond; Copa, Goat Cheese, Honey, Almond; Salmon, Ricotta, Citrus, Cilantro

So needless to say, when it comes time for our biannual catch up sessions, I get giddy and can’t wait to see her. And often times, I can’t wait to see what restaurant she chooses to serve as the backdrop for us to air the accomplishments and grievances of our theatrical lives, as she never fails to choose one that is the perfect representation of our friendship: refreshing, open-aired, and ever-evolving yet constant. And once again, she did not fail to deliver when she chose Fig & Olive on Melrose.

It’s a beautiful open space with dramatic presentation that still manages to maintain the air of California clean. Smoke, without the mirrors, is used to brilliantly flavor their Rosemary Lamp Chops but the star of that show was the Roasted Honey Eggplant accoutrement. Their Beef Carpaccio with 18 year old balsamic vinegar is something to be, nothing less, than revered, while their wall of olive oils is as impressive as it is diverse. And finally, their Dessert “Crostini” with Amarena cherries, mascarpone cheese and crushed pistachios on homemade shortbread ultimately coerced Julie, the chocoholic, to abandon her Chocolate Pot de Crème ship and find refuge on my dessert plate.

Needless to say, the meal was delightful but what made it even better was definitely the company. And like family, although we don’t see each other nearly enough, when we do, it means a lot. So as far as I’m concerned, Fig & Olive has earned itself a new nickname and will forever be known, in my book, as Mei & Julie. Because a sister who feeds, is a sister indeed.

Sea Scallops & Truffle Artichoke Tapenade: Seared sea scallops, truffle artichoke, arugula pine nuts with aged balsamic & white truffle olive oil
Beef Carpaccio: filet mignon, 18 year old balsamic vinegar, baby arugula, tomato, parmesan truffle olive oil

Penne Funghi Tartufo: cremini mushroom, black trumpet, parmesan, parsley, scallion & white truffle olive oil
Rosemary Lamb Chops: grilled lamb chops smoked a la minute with a bouquet of Herbs de Provence goat cheese & chive gnocchi, roasted honey eggplant & rosemary garlic olive oil

Dessert “Crostini”: Amarena cherry, mascarpone, pistachio on shortbread with micro-basil
Chocolate Pot de Crème: crunchy praline financiers & vanilla cream

Manchego, Fig, Marcona Almond Crostini

Copa, Goat Cheese, Honey, Almond Crostini

Salmon, Ricotta, Citrus, Cilantro Crostini

Thanks for treating, Julie Bulie!

Fig & Olive
8490 Melrose Place
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310 360 9100

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Dined & Dished: Milk – Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

In a fast paced city like LA, the years go by fast and the days go by even faster. So much so, that it gets to a point where your thoughts and memories begin to blur and bleed into one another. In a fast paced city like LA, we’re quick to grow up and once we’re grown, we realize that we should’ve never wished it upon ourselves to begin with. Because before you know it, you’re no longer playing Tour of Duty or MacGyver with your brother in your backyard anymore. Instead you’re scheduling meetings and meeting deadlines, all the while planning for the rest of your life.

However, it’s days like today – days like Halloween – where we’re all reminded that, behind our suits and our titles, our Louboutin stilettos and our crazy schedules, everyone of us were all kids once. And more often than naught, that kid is vying to come out. Luckily for us, the folks at Milk seem to truly understand and empathize with this duality dilemma by offering grown up versions of the childhood favorite ooey-gooey, get-it-all-over-my-hands-and-face ice cream sandwich. Sandwiching a baseball sized scoop of homemade ice cream between two dessert-plate-sized, freshly baked French macaron cookies, Milk manages to cater to our childhood wishes while satiating our adult palate and eye for design with flavors such as red velvet, Thai ice tea, and salted caramel, that are then coated with thick icing to create a mod masterpiece that is almost too beautiful to eat…Almost.

It’s places like Milk that make us realize that maybe growing up isn’t so bad. Because after all, although kids can want ice cream for breakfast, kids at heart can actually have it. So in the wise words of the late Steve Jobs, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

MILK
7290 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.939.6455

Social Scene: Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival – Success is Sweet

My fan shot with Chef Paul Prudhomme

There’s something about the west that compels people to leave loved ones, forsake all reason, throw caution to the wind and relinquish all claims to a sense of security in exchange for the small chance of achieving something bigger and possibly, a lot brighter. Behind every miner who searched for gold, every pioneer looking to score some land, and every artist and performer waiting to be discovered is the same belief that their lives were meant for something different. Their lives were meant for extraordinary success. And if you’ve ever been to LA, you’d probably believe the same thing.

Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Yuzu Sauce by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu

It seems like behind every pair of Ray Ban aviators you come across, lives a chart topping indie pop artist, a 21 year old fashion blogger whose opinion matters more than all of the editors at Vogue combined, a reality tv star who’s making a fortune off of her well endowed money maker, a self made millionaire who’s still an undergrad, an actor turned tech investor, and in our case, an Iron Chef.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto‘s Station being bombarded by fans

And nowhere was this made more evident than last week’s Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival where wining and dining’s finest gathered together to raise money for St. Vincent’s Meals and Wheels. It was overflowing with so much talent that the venue could barely contain all of the positive energy that was being exuded by all the celebrity chefs, boutique wineries, musicians, photographers and guests. And that’s when it dawned on me. The stories of success in this city are as varied as they are common but the path usually remains the same.

Kobe Beef by Chef Wolfgang Puck of Spago

Those who achieve the greatest successes in life are the ones who know who they are, what they love to do, and have enough faith in themselves to do it. They are the eternal optimists who can’t help but see the brighter side of things and not let things get them down. Even when things are not going as planned, they see the silver lining and keep going. Those who are the most successful in this town, or any town for that matter, are those that realize that the path to success is success. And I, my friend, will definitely drink to that!

Chef Wolfgang Puck pouring yours truly a glass of wine
Trio of Pork Belly Skewer with Miniature Lo-Mai-Gai & Sunomono Salad by Chef Wofgang Puck of Spago
Nobu Style Sashimi Tacos with Tuna & Salmon by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu
Sushi Chefs of Nobu
Pork Belly Skewer by Chef Wolfgang Puck of Spago
Fresh Whole Ahi Tuna at Chef Sam Choy‘s Station
Ahi Tuna Tartare by Chef Sam Chow of Kai Lanai
My favorite dish of the evening: Wild Mushroom Ragu with Foie Gras Foam & Duck Crackling by Chef Michael Ginor of Lola Restaurant, Hudson Valley Foie Gras
My other favorite dish of the evening: Maple Glazed Pork Belly & Butternut Squash Purée by Chef Richard Reddington of Redd
Bouchon‘s Seafood Ice Serving Sculpture
Seafood Spread of freshly Shucked Oysters, Mussels, Crab Claws & Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail by Bouchon
Pot Roast Sliders with Horseradish Creme by Chef Suzanne Tracht of Jar
Steamed Sea Bass with Coconut Basmati Rice, Mushrooms & Mango Salsa by Chef Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill
Seared Shrimp, Cajun Sauce with Smoked Ham, Okra, Green Chile Grits by Chef Diego Velasco of Memphis Cafe
Goats Milk Yogurt Custard with Shiso and Plum Blossoms by Chef Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant At Meadowood
Maine Lobster and Chestnut Veloutè by Chef Joachim Splichal of Patina
Salmon Sashimi Croquette by Chef Nathan Eckhaus of South Gate
Pâté Trio & Ribs by Osteria Mozza
Cheese Gnovioli w/Wild Mushrooms & Sage Brown Butter by Luciano Pellegrini of Valentino
Train performing live just for us!
The Red Carpet. Dress: BCBG. Shoes: BCBG. Purse: Louis Vuitton. Jewelry: Mei Elizabeth
My empty tasting glasses by the end of the night
A few of many wines that I tasted & loved but I was only sober enough to remember to photograph the following:

Dined & Dished Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants

Dined & Dished: Kristy’s Wood Oven & Wine Bar – Peace. Love. Malibu.

There is definitely something to be said about what crisp California ocean breeze does to a person after excessive exposure to the world of the virtually mundane. (ie: newsfeeds of other people’s babies, beers and bridal showers, videos of mindless stunts that effortlessly manage to stunt your own mental growth, and truncated conversations consisting only of hash-tags, at-signs, abbreviations and acronyms. #FML @danieltosh) I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been the perpetrator of an Instagram Lomo-fi filtered image or two of my gelato, as well as my newborn niece, Morgan. But that doesn’t change the fact that once the cool salt hits my senses and my toes sink into the warm sand that is Malibu, I am all but ready to don my rose colored glasses and give it all up for a simpler life of peace and love.*

And that’s what Kristy’s, a Wood Oven and Wine Bar overlooking Zuma Beach, is all about. Natural ingredients combined with love to make simple familiar dishes such as their Wild Mushroom Arancinis that are, harmoniously both, humble and refined, sensuous and comforting, rich yet delicate, and served with a romantic ocean view on the side. It’s little gems like these that remind me that balance of the mind, body and soul is obtainable even in this city of ever-changing relationships, careers and status updates. Correction: especially in this city of ever-changing relationships, careers and status updates.

It’s about carving out a little bit of simple and a little bit of joy in spite of a world filled with a whole lot of crazy, and keeping it in a place that is easily accessible just for you. And that’s the beauty of it all. You don’t have to go far to find what you’re looking for and you don’t have to give up everything to get it. In fact, in Malibu, you can sit back, relax, have your coconut cream cake and eat it too…and with just enough reception to check an email or two.

*give up my electronic leashes; not my newborn niece…or gelato, for that matter.

Kristy’s Wood Oven + Wine Bar
Malibu Country Inn, The Collection Restaurant:
6506 Westward Beach Road
Malibu, CA 90265
310.457.2602

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Dined & Dished: Piccolo – A Little Bit of Venice in Venice Beach

Having studied abroad in Italy during an era that only existed in, what feels like a Diane Lane movie, I came back to the States on the eternal pursuit to find, not just delicious Italian food but authentic Italian food. The kind that is so incomprehensibly magnifico that at first whiff, it takes you back to the simple, romantic, it’s-so-intimate-you’re-bumping-chairs-and-rubbing-elbows-with-your-neighbor kind of trattoria. One that exists only within the cobblestoned medieval city center of a town like Siena. That was what I was looking for here in the concrete jungle that is LA. And to my surprise, after much searching, that is exactly what I found.

Tronchetto – Imported Mascarpone and fresh banana semi-iced-cream

After my six year long quest that spanned across Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, from Manhattan Beach to West Hollywood, for the most titillating and tantalizing pappardelle di cinghiale, I finally came across the one that screamed home to me and resulted in me coming to a screeching halt. Maybe it was because the restaurant was literally in my backyard, nestled so perfectly upon the pothole laden back alleys of Dudley Avenue. Maybe it was because all signs pointed to yes as its lights shimmered, right there, tucked behind some mediocre bar alongside the “other Venice”, Venice Beach, where I run every morning. Or maybe it was simply because with every bite that I took of their handmade, blueberry tagliatelle with wild boar ragú, I couldn’t help but be taken back to a time and a place that I remember with such joy and happiness. Whatever it was, all I knew was that they had me hooked and I wanted more of whatever it was that they were pushing. And just like anything else worth longing for, this restaurant is clever in its subtlety. It’s delightfully understated. It’s casually impeccable. It’s my home away from home. It’s Piccolo.

Pane: freshly baked squid ink rolls, olive focaccia, breadsticks, pane
Riccióla e Bufala – seared yellowtail, thyme-sicilian oil, mozzarella di bufala, italian ponzu

Tagliatelle al Ragú di Cinghiale – blueberry tagliatelle with homemade wild boar ragu
Germano Reale al Miele Tartufato – breast of mallard (wild duck) pan-seared, truffled-honey sauce

Bignole – pastry puffs filled with Belgian Gianduja chocolate cream

Tronchetto – Imported Mascarpone and fresh banana semi-iced-cream

Piccolo
5 Dudley Avenue
Venice Beach CA 90291
310.314.3222

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Dined & Dished: Hatfield’s + The New Melrose Place

Open aired and glamorously understated, Hatfield’s Restaurant manages to be posh and elegant without the uncomfortable, over-the-top pretentiousness that often time accompanies cuisine of its caliber. With an open kitchen and a functional art display of a modern industrial honeycomb light installation serving as dual focal points, Hatfield’s perfectly orchestrated ecosystem of chefs, servers, dishes, cocktails and art manages to entertain guests without detracting from the main attraction, itself, your meal and your company. Included in Bon Appetit magazine’s list of The 10 Best New Restaurants in America, Hatfield’s does not disappoint in its atmosphere, price point, service and most importantly, its food.

Serving a seasonal prix fixed menu nightly, for omnivores and vegetarians alike, guests are in for a delicious and decadent four course treat that is also sensible. Coming in at a mere $59/person ($49 if you’re a veggie lover), dining at Hatfield’s leaves your wallet full, your tummy fuller and your heart satiated with fantasies of perfectly seared, crisp and unctuous foie gras, and heavenly caramelized apple and pear tarte tatin.

Complimentary Amuse Bouche: Curried Lentil a/Tuna Tartare – fresh and divine.
First Course: Raw Marinated Hiramasa w/Anaheim chile, endive, meyer lemon crème fraiche, crispy shallot – the meyer lemon gave it just enough sweetness and acid without overpowering the subtle flavor of the fish.
Second Course: Seared Maine Scallop w/Artichoke Puree – perfectly seared and puree was pleasantly buttery.
Third Course Option 1: Pan Roasted Duck Breast w/caramelized endive and cherries, pistachio pistou, celery root puree.

Third Course Option 2: Braised Pork Belly w/Fingerling potatoes, blue lake beans, harissa.
Dessert Course Option 1: Sugar & Spice Beignets, Venezuelan chocolate fondue, mexican chocolate milkshake shot.

Dessert Course Option 2: Caramelized Apple Tarte Tatin w/créme fraiche ice cream and vanilla bean whipped cream - by far the best dessert of the evening…if not, year.

Coup de Grace: Bobo Farms Sauteed Foie Gras w/sunchoke puree & petit grapes – not a part of the tasting menu but had to order it. the best tasting and largest piece of foie gras I have ever eaten in the States!

Hatfield’s

6703 Melrose Avenue

Los Angeles, CA 90038

310.935.2977

Social Scene: Downtown LA Edition – Artisanal LA

Los Angeles is, without a doubt, one of those cities where there is always something going on, no matter how peculiar your interests are. Whether it be wearing Wolverine or Chewbaca costumes when it’s not Halloween at Comic Con, getting dolled up and dirty for Roller Derby, or getting festive at Midget Mexican Wrestling, the city of Angels has it all. So when I heard that Shawna Dawson of Sauce|LA was throwing an Artisinal LA event, I was on it like white on rice. This indoor farmers-market-like-food-fest was strictly focused on celebrating LA’s finest local handmade artisanal edibles and amongst all the baked goods, hand crafted cheeses and backyard harvested honey, there was a trio of standouts that Iwas utterly blown away by.

Cake Monkey Bakery, Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows and The Flying Pie Man definitely have their craft down to a science. It hasn’t been since Lex Lugor announced his shocking and scandalous alliance with the WWF’s Four Horsemen that I’ve had the wind knocked out of me by something I loved. But this time…This time, it was good. Oatmeal Cream Pie Sandwich Cookies filled with Maple Vanilla Buttercream. Luscious Lemony Meringue Marshmallows. Flaky Meat Pies. There was not one dry eye in the house after everyone sampled these good eats.

Cake Monkey’s Li’l Merri’s Oatmeal Cream Pie Sandwich has it’s secret in the Maple Vanilla Buttercream that melts in your mouth like the creamy center of a French macaron but takes you back home to a good ole America with it’s thin and chewy oatmeal cookie outer shell.

Plush Puffs’ Gourmet Marshmallows had the ingenious idea of letting you roast your own flavored marshmallow and the result was an oogey gooey, sticky icky, tartly delicious mess of Luscious Lemony Meringue goodness.

Truly of a multicultural nature, the Flying Pie Man is the brain child of Yuichiro Sato from Japan, who makes meat pies in the Australian tradition with refined French technique. This, by far, was my choice for Best in Show because the proof was in the pudding…or in this case; the pie. Made with Yuichiro’s passion for people and pie, this delicious concoction of ground beef, red wine, a mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery, mashed potatoes flecked with parsley, artisanal hand crafted parmesan from the Cheese Cave, and topped with the most buttery and flakiest crust you will ever experience in your life, takes the unassuming and underrated meat pie to another gourmet level of delicacy and comfort. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the pie because I was too consumed with shoveling it into my face but below is one I borrowed from their Facebook page.

Social Scene: Hollywood Edition – Thrillist’s Best of the Best Food Truck Rally

I’m not one to subscribe to too many newsletters but I have to admit, I’m a sucker for Thrillist’s witty and all too sarcastic blurbs about their hidden finds of up and coming designers, web apps, restaurants and bars in the LA area. They have an eye for picking out the most well designed pieces of functional art by talented local artists, a nose for sniffing out the hottest bars and breakthrough restaurants in town, and a knack for scouring the city for the most exclusive events that you get to attend just for being a Thrillist reader. So when I received the newsletter that announced that they were holding a Best of the Best Food Truck Rally in Hollywood with donations going to Meals on Wheels, even thought it was free, I was…well…sold!