Friday, January 30, 2009

A little bit of glitz - Gordon Ramsey at the London - West Hollywood

(The Artichoke Risotto)

For quite awhile, I've been intrigued by Gordon Ramsey. I'm not so much interested in his over the top, ever yelling persona featured on "Hell's Kitchen," but rather like the Gordon Ramsey that is on the BBC version of "Kitchen Nightmares." I love the type of food that he puts together on Kitchen Nightmares, encouraging more clean flavors that focus on the freshness of the ingredients.

Sooo, that's how I found myself at Gordon Ramsey at the London in West Hollywood. Alas, there are no Gordon Ramsey restaurants in DC and I'm actually rarely in New York. So when the opportunity arose to check out one of his places while in LA, I jumped on it.

I wasn't sure what to expect. Obviously it wouldn't be your typical hotel restaurant (the London is a boutique hotel in West Hollywood). All I could tell from the menu was that he mixed together some interesting ingredients, ones that I may not usually mix together myself.

We arrived to a beautifully stylish, modern hotel, decorated in some of my favorite colors (as my friends call it, "Jackie Blue," because I'm obsessed with that color). We were directed down a dimly lit hallway to the entrance of the restaurant.

The restaurant itself carried over a similar decor as the hotel. Not rough and tumbled as some may expect from seeing Gordon Ramsey on tv, but very polished, modern, yet with a few vintage touches. I quite liked the design of the place, and it reminded me a lot of designer Kelly Wearstler's projects. The restaurant was fairly empty (although we were a bit on the earlier side), except for a table of 5 guests chatting in Portuguese (who we were seated right next to), a few tables of two (sounds of Japanese and French floated around), and then us. We were seated in one of the "booths" in the center of the restaurant -- S-shaped booths where one party would fill half of the S and then another party would fill the other half of the S at another table. I warn that the restaurant's lighting is quite dim too -- the table next to us in fact requested flashlights and magnifying glasses (that was funny).

We decided to get the full on tasting menu. Everything on it sounded amazing, and even better, the restaurant really allows you to customize your entire meal. Don't like the third course on the tasting menu? No problem! Find a dish on the a la carte menu to substitute it with. Want to try some of Ramsey's famous risotto? Of course, add it to the menu, to share, or for one. Not interested in the tasting menu? Lots of a la carte options in all different sizes for the diner to create a selection to their liking.

Our tasting menu (from my recollection with some help from the website!) (plus artichoke risotto -- we couldn't resist, and my favorite part of the meal):
  • Steamed bamboo shoots and shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

  • Dressed King crab, avocado and cucumber, basil puree, paddle fish caviar

  • Pressed foie gras with fresh black truffle, braeburn apple, toasted biroche

  • Tiger prawn ravioli, creamy fennel puree, light lobster bisque

  • MAIN COURSE -- I substituted this with the pacific black cod with honshimeji mushrooms, leeks, and kalamansi lime broth (I love black cod)

  • A mini dessert that came in a shot glass, that I can't recall at the moment exactly what was in it.

  • Chocolate cream savarin with malted milk emusion and salted caramel ice cream

I loved the risotto (as aforementioned), the chawanmushi (kind of like a custardy consistency, below), and the chocolate savarin. The black cod was good, but lacked a bit of flavor.

Overall, I'm happy that we went for the tasting menu (a note to those who want to go there -- not everyone at the table has to order the tasting menu, once again in line with the limitless possibilities of customization). We got to taste such a variety of Ramsey's dishes in perfect tasting menu sized portions.

Would I go back here if I was in LA? Probably not. I enjoyed our meal there and am very happy that we went, but there are still so many restaurants to try, and such little time. So check one off the wish list.

Gordon Ramsey at the London - West Hollywood/1020 N. San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069/ 310 358 7788

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The ORIGINAL Bob's Big Boy

(Our trip to California continued...)

Yes, you read that right - the ORIGINAL Bob's Big Boy. You've seen it featured on the Food Network... perhaps you've been to other Bob's Big Boys (the Route 95 corridor perhaps?)... perhaps you've seen Big Boy featured in movies. While visiting Burbank, we couldn't resist a breakfast at the original Bob's Big Boy and a chance to take a photo with an over-life size Big Boy.

We came into a half-full Big Boy -- it was New Years Day so my guess is that everyone was either (a) moving very slowly from celebrating the new year or (b) traveling to Pasadena for the annual Rose Parade/Rose Bowl (which btw, we checked out the Rose Parade for ourselves later!). One step into Bob's Big Boy and it felt like we traveled back in time to the 1970s. Lots of golden colors - browns, yellows, and oranges -- the long diner bar complete with orange vinyl stools with booths lining the window walls.
We were seated in a booth and immediately dove into the menu.

After reading the short bio about this location (opened in 1949), we attempted to make our breakfast picks with our stomachs were rumbling from the time difference. Two of our party went straight for the "chicken fried steak" -- I mean, how could you go wrong? (My fork and knife ventured over to their plates...several times...throughout the meal...couldn't help it).

I am a sucker for corned beef hash (I think it is a continuing love from my childhood) so went for an egg platter with corned beef hash.

My dad, ever the one to go for sweet breakfast items, got the super strawberry waffle meal complete with a jumbo belgian waffle covered in strawberries, biscuits, and a side of sausage.

The whole feel of the restaurant reminded me of an East Coast diner... but California style. The plates were big and indulging, just the way a diner breakfast should be. The service was friendly, the coffee ever flowing, and we nearly had to roll ourselves out of Bob's. We posed with Big Boy on the way out (our bellies quite extended like his) and settled back into the car with a bit of a food coma as we journeyed to the Rose Parade.

4211 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 843-9334

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Cupcakes!

Cupcakes are perfect for any time of year, especially during times of celebration! From staying open until 4 am to offering special tasting menus, the restaurants of DC were awash in celebratory specials. For your (eye) feasting pleasure, some inauguration cupcakes from Gtown Cupcakes.

Inaugural Pecan Praline French Toast Casserole

A chilly, but very exciting weekend here in DC. To celebrate the Inaugural Weekend, we indulged in a few eats... In particular, we decided to cook up a belly-warming breakfast of french toast casserole topped with pecan pralines and a side of turkey sausage. Yum. In order to serve only a few people, we cut Paula Deen's recipe in half (but went full force with the pecan praline topping!). Even if you are going to go with a half recipe, I would suggest using about 3/4 of the "liquids" on the bread -- the half version was a little bit dry, but still delicious! (Her recipe also suggests a raspberry syrup, but we thought this was sweet and tasty enough as is):

Pecan Praline French Toast Casserole (Below is the half version):
10 slices of French bread (cut from a loaf)
Butter, for pan
4 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt

1) Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch thick each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs).

2) Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices.

3) In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly.

4) Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices.

5) Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

6) The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

7) Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 45 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden.

Praline Topping:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Spread over bread as directed above.

Eat hot and enjoy!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pizza Pizza LA Mario Batali Style - Pizzeria Mozza

To end 2008, we decided to go to Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza -- located at the edge of a residential neighborhood at Melrose and Highland, the brightly painted Pizzeria Mozza stands out (note Pizzeria Mozza's sister restaurant Osteria Mozza is right next door). In contrast, the inside of the restaurant itself is dimly lit (mood lighting?) and quite cozy. You would never know that a celebrity chef owned this casual eatery except for the fact that it was absolutely packed. (The seats are tightly packed, but we didn't feel overcrowded.)

We came to Pizzeria Mozza on New Years Eve -- we spent the day flying across the country, so we thought it would be a fun, delicious, yet relaxing way to end the year. Unfortunately, we were greeted by a few unfriendly and cranky hosts and a wait to be seated despite reservations. Note that if you are going to head over to Pizzeria Mozza - reservations are a must (the phone lines open at 10 am PST each morning and reservations fill up a month in advance, so call exactly a month ahead of time!) - also, whatever you do, don't show up early - other than the bar area (which seemed to always be packed), there is almost nowhere to wait for your table, except for the crawl space next to the private wine room (beware of the swinging door through which waiters coming in and out of the room). We huddled in the small "waiting" area, jumping every now and then to avoid the waiters, and trying to avoid being hit by the front door.

Our experience improved exponentially once we were seated. Although we had one rude waitress who kept trying to have us purchase the most expensive bottle of champagne, our actual waitress was charming, informative, and a breath of fresh air from other staff.

Then, we began to feast our eyes on the menu. The menu is packed with delicious sounding options with many types of antipasti, insalate, carni, bruschette, panini, plates of the day, and of course, pizza. We decided to sample several of the antipasti and two pizzas to experience a wide array of the dishes. The antipasti we ordered: mussels al forno with Calabrian sauce (tasty, but nothing to write home about), arrancine alla bolognese (essentially, small risotto balls, one of my faves), fried squash blossoms with ricotta (left; yum), and a board of proscuitto di parma.

Then the PIZZA. I mean, this is what you come to Pizzeria Mozza for right? The pizzas are large enough to be shared (2 pizzas plus our antipasti plus dessert satisfied our table of 4) and were cooked up just the way I like them -- thin crust, crispy, and flavorful. Our selections: (1) long cooked broccoli, caciocavallo & chiles (right) and (2) tomato, mozzarella, sausage, salami, bacon & guanciale.

With some stomach space to spare, we decided to just go the whole way and get dessert. We each got different dishes -- I had the butterscotch budino, essentially a butterscotch pudding, that I craved for days afterwards (this is truly for butterscotch fans!). The other desserts at our table -- "hot chocolate" (like a mix between thick hot chocolate syrup and a chocolate mousse) with toasted marshmallow and spiced ginger pigs (cookies!), gelati (pistachio, vanilla, and mint chip), and a banana gelato pie.

The restaurant was clearly meant to be fun. I admit that I loved all the little details that were incorporated into the menu, the placemats, and so forth. Interesting facts about pizza (favorite world toppings? Costa Rica loves coconut! Brazil - green peas, and Russia - red herring!), Italian comic strips, tidbits about the restaurant. From the conversation-starting placemats to the bundles of red balloons everywhere to the easily shared dishes, it is a place meant for celebrations.

I enjoyed Pizzeria Mozza for the most part -- I was sad that the staff's attitudes had to dampen an otherwise delicious meal. If I lived in LA, I would certainly come back if for no other reason than to try more of the food. But living across the country, I'm not sure if Pizzeria Mozza would be at the top of my list of re-visits.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Put it on your radar - new fro-yo and free cupcakes!

YUM. The new Red Velvet Cupcakery (featured on the 12/4/08 entry) will be handing out FREE CUPCAKES to the first 500 customers on Thursday, January 15th. I secretly thought about keeping this a secret in hopes to secure one of these cupcakes, but couldn't help but share the excitement.

Opened recently next to Red Velvet Cupcakery is the second location of its sister frozen yogurt spot, TangySweet.

Both are located in Penn Quarter at 7th and E Streets.