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The Nickel Diner in LA is a hot spot right outside of the Fashion District specializing in good prices on unique items. We stopped by on our way out of LA the morning after spending some quality time at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. Sunday morning at the Nickel Diner appears to be the big brunch day and in such a small space we waited a while for a table. But, based on the much longer line that formed after us, I assumed it would be worth the wait. We were seated right next to the counter and the kitchen so we were able to watch them make our food. In my opinion, the best seats in the house. I ordered a blood orange mimosa, the BLTA & Egg, and their famous homemade pop tart.
The blood orange mimosa arrived quickly because it was the drink of the day. It was a unique tasting drink, I really liked the intensity that the blood orange juice added as compared to regular juice. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the drink. Next, my BLTAE arrived. I really like BLTs and adding some avocado and an egg seems like a great idea.
I was a little nervous for this sandwich to arrive because the server didn’t ask me how I wanted my egg cooked. I nievly assumed that since he didn’t ask he knew that a touch under medium was the perfect cook for an egg on a sandwich. Cooking an egg just under medium means that the yolk wont be solid but it also won’t be very runny. It will be at the viscosity of molasses which allows the yolk to seep into the entire sandwich without spilling all over the plate. Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong. The egg yolk was almost fully cooked, about halfway between a soft and hard boiled egg. How unfortunate! So, while I was missing the egg yolk flavor in the sandwich, the rest of the ingredients worked really well. The bacon was nice and crispy balanced well against the creamy avocado. The tomato and lettuce were both super fresh and tasted like they were picked from a garden right outside. Lastly, the bread. You can’t fail with some toasty, buttery, sourdough! My favorite bread toasted to crunchy perfection and topped with fresh and delicious ingredients. Not a bad dish for breakfast or brunch.
For dessert I went after their homemade pop tart. This dessert was very good but also very easy to describe. Just imagine a regular strawberry pop tart from the foil and multiply the taste a few times over. Fresh strawberries turned into jam stuffed into flaky pastry topped was a sweet icing with strawberry sugar crystals. You really can’t go wrong here, it brings back the nostalgia of your childhood breakfast treat (or just the one you at today) but adds the depth of flavor you would look for as an adult. I think the best comparison is the pictures of the Nickel Diner pastry and the actual Pop Tart. You try to figure out which is which.
All in all the breakfast at the Nickel Diner didn’t disappoint and I would come back here to check out their dinner options, especially the smac and cheese and bacon donut. I was a little disappointed by the cook of my egg in my sandwich but I guess that i what you get for not giving instructions to the server. One of these days I will get an egg on a sandwich or a burger cooked to my liking, or I can just do it myself at home.
Overall Review: 7/10
Take a look at the Nickel Diner here
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After competing in the Hero Rush and knowing that I was moving away from LA in a few weeks, I decided to finally take the time to drive into the city and wait around until I could eat at this truck. I was not disappointed. I was able to time it just right and parked 2 blocks away only a few minutes before the truck opened it’s doors. This proved to be a very good thing because it the time it took me to order and get my food the line quadrupled. Since I had just run a race I figured that I could spoil myself and order both a dinner sandwich and a dessert sandwich…and some tater tots.
I only had to wait about 10 minutes for my food which is not a bad wait at all. I proceeded to take the food over to my car and made a spread in the trunk. It took me a few years to finally get to this point and I had been hearing about these grilled sandwiches for a long time and therefore I wasted no time before digging in to sandwich number one.
The most well known grilled cheese offered by the Grilled Cheese Truck is the Cheesy Mac and Rib on basic white bread. This sandwich combined some of my favorite things; cheese, grilled onions, succulent pulled pork, and mac n cheese. With those ingredients you really can’t go wrong as long as the bread gets nice and crispy. While the crispy cheese on the outside of the grilled cheese from the Bacon Mania truck was incredible, it was the ingredients on the inside of this sandwich that stole the show. The onions were grilled to perfection and the pulled pork just melted in your mouth. Adding in the macaroni was brilliant because it help the bread maintain some texture inside the sandwich. Cheese, savory, and succulent, this sandwich was all they said it would be. In addition, the bread was grilled just right, nice a brown and a little burnt on the edges. Just how I like it. Definitely one of the best to date.
Next I moved on to the S’more melt, another one of my favorite things. This time sandwiched between two pieces of white bread were toasted marshmallows, graham cracker crumbles, and instead of chocolate, Nutella. While this dessert melt was good, it couldn’t compare to the Mac and Rib that came first. You definitely could get the different flavors from inside and the hazelnut from the Nutella added a bit of depth to the flavor. It is possible that I may start making S’mores with it from now on. It will be easier to heat up than regular chocolate bars. I think that my main complaint about this sandwich was that there did not seem to be enough filling on the inside so the grilled bread overwhelmed the rest of the ingredients. I frequently pontificate about the need for bread and filling balance and while the Mac and Rib struck that balance the S’mores melt surly did not. Additionally the combination of bread and graham crackers made the melt somewhat dry. On my next visit I will try the Mom’s Apple Pie instead. The apples may and walnuts may stand up to the bread a bit more.
Overall this was a very good trip to LA and the Grilled Cheese Truck surely lived up to the hype. The Cheesy Mac and Rib was one of the best sandwiches I have had, grilled cheese or not. The addition of the macaroni and pork made pushed it from ordinary to extraordinary. Next time we are in Los Angeles and the truck is around, I will be back to try some of their other offerings.
Overall Review: 8/10
Take a look and their cheesy menu and travel stops here
Take a look at my first Spago review here
After my first review of Spago, the general manager called me and asked for us to come back for another chance. We decided to give it another try especially when they sent me a $150 gift certificate in the mail. Now, I understand that they were really focused on us during the meal and some of the extras were unique to this one experience but overall it was a much improved night.
Our waiter, which was the biggest issue last time, was awesome. Ben was very attentive, explained everything very well, and checked up on us regularly. We didn’t want for anything the entire night. During the meal I paid attention to our waiter with other tables and somehow even though he was slammed, each table received just as much attention as we did. The ambiance was great and since we sat outside there was no issue with temperature. The music also seemed like it was selected just for me; I swear that I heard 75% of the music on my Pandora that day. It was a beautiful night and one worthy of our last meal in LA before moving away.
Within five minutes of our arrival the manager was out with champagne welcoming us back to Spago, what a nice touch. We were waiting for menus but he told us that before they allowed us to order he had a few surprises in store. Little did I know that it would be an hour before we actually ordered. First he brought out ahi tuna wrapped in a cone with sesame seeds. Delicious! Next, he brought us a blini (Mini savory pancake) with creme fraishe, smoked salmon, an salmon roe. Sometimes I am thankful that Virginia doesn’t eat seafood because this was awesome. It tasted like Judaism on a plate! The last bite he brought out was by far the best. It was a bacon, yes bacon confit inside a savory puff pastry. Too bad Virginia eats bacon, I could have eaten dozens of those. It was an explosion of bacon flavor in a tiny individual bite.
After about an hour we ordered and just like the last time our food was amazing, but that is not surprising for a Michelin star restaurant. The menu had changed completely since the last time and the new options were incredible. As an appetizer I ordered the Maryland crab cake which was one of the best I’ve ever had. And I’ve had crab cakes in Maryland. The presentation was masterful with what tasted like basil puree (But maybe pea) in tiny balls along the edge of the plate and a small salad on top of the cake. The star of this dish was the crab, as it should be. There was almost no filler, just enough to keep it together and that was great. Surprisingly, what made it so good was the spice. The crab cake was spicy! The saddest part of this dish was that I only got one but I definitely needed to save room for the rest of the meal. As a side note, Virginia ordered the agnolotti appetizer and the manager took the liberty of shaving summer truffles on top at no charge. I was worried because Virginia hates mushrooms but these truffles were light and she loved them!
For dinner I ordered the Cantonese style roasted duck with lo-mien noodles and Shiitake mushrooms. It was beyond ridiculous. The waiter told me that Wolfgang himself orders this dish when he eats at Spago and I see why. The duck was beautifully cooked and super crispy and the 5-spice rub made the flavors pop. Paired as the main contributor to the sauce were mandarin oranges. Sweet and cooked down well they transported me to a traditional but elevated Chinese restaurant. You wouldn’t think that this dish would be presented at Spago but it definitely was. The entree was so good that I could resist picking up the legs to get every little morsel off the bone. I’m sure I embarrassed Virginia but it was worth it. The lo-mien on the side was just as good but nothing could compare to what was on the main plate. Sorry noodles.
For dessert I ordered a raspberry souffle with raspberry ice cream and chocolate sauce. This was possibly the best souffle I have ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly, I don’t think it would have collapsed if I just stared at it for an hour but I could not resist. I dug in and took my first bite. It was so rich and sweet from the chocolate but the tartness of the raspberries surely shined through. For an additional chocolate note they served a sauce to be poured on top. Ben warned me not to pour it all in but I’m rebellious and ignored him. I am so glad I did. The sauce was unbelievable, thick, chocolaty, and sweet it added a whole other level to the souffle. And when it became too rich, you could go in for some raspberry sorbet and cold whole raspberries. Despite the massive amount of food I had eaten I almost licked the plate clean. If I was at home or alone, I probably would have licked it but alas Virginia makes me act like an adult. Sadly, I did not get a good picture because it was dark out but you get the idea.
Overall a much better experience that the first trip and though we can not get back the night after my first marathon, this went a long way towards making up for it. Based on this night I would go back when we are in town. It didn’t hurt that though we ate so much, with the comped items and the gift certificate our final bill was only $73 and our bottle of wine cost $50. Not a bad cost for a five star meal. Something else really cool that I appreciate about Spago is that their menu changes constantly so every time you go you can have a completely different eating experience. For some restaurants this wont work but Spago puts effort into the menu changes and it shows. While this trip to Spago was without a doubt a 10/10, my final rating reflects an average of my two dinners
Overall Rating: 8/10
Check out their ever changing menu here
Virginia and I headed in to Los Angeles to pick up some skirt steaks from the farmer’s market and swung by Father’s Office for the office burger among other things. Father’s Office is a gastropub that is extremely busy for dinner and since you have to seat yourself and order at the bar, it was a good thing we came for lunch. From what I understand it is a battle for seats and food in the evenings. This would be a nice hangout if it wasn’t so pricy and in LA. The layout is clean and modern with a lot of space both inside and out. We grabbed some menus took a look and ordered some food. I also ordered a tasty craft beer from their enormous selection of mid to ridiculously expensive varieties.
Our appetizers came out first, sweet potato fries with a garlic and blue cheese aioli and some fancy bone marrow. The fries were dusted with salt and some herbs; a smart move meant to connect the sweetness of the fries with the savory notes in the aioli. The fries were cooked well albeit a little greasy but this was the first time I enjoyed dipping sweet potatoes into a non sweet condiment. I also liked the way they were served. It looked like the fry basket they were cooked in, very clever.
Next, I moved on to my roasted bone marrow. The dish was two pieces of bone with a few toast points on top of a parsley salad. On the side was a small pile of sel gris (grey sea salt) meant to add onto the marrow once it was out of the bone. This was a tasty appetizer, well roasted marrow and perfectly toasted bread. The salad was a throw away and I believe just meant for color but the salt did draw out the richness of the marrow. My comment on this dish is that for the price I would have liked the bones sawed in half. I don’t particularly like digging inside bone at a restaurant, if they had cut the bone lengthwise after roasting it would have looked nicer and would have been easier to scoop out onto the toast. A successful dish but not for the feint of heart because marrow has both a unique texture and a strong beef flavor. You have to be a true carnivore to enjoy marrow, good thing I am.
As we finished up out appetizers my burger arrived. The highly talked about Office Burger. This burger was some non nondescript meat on a bun with some unique toppings. It was the toppings that made the burger but at least the meat wasn’t a cheap base. I go on rants from time to time about using good meat for burgers and hot dogs so I am glad they didn’t choose to skimp on the beef. The toppings were inventive and all things that I like. Caramelized onions for sweetness, bacon for, well, bacon. Two kind of cheese, Maytag blue and Gruyere. The cheese was what made this burger special. Both added saltiness to the burger but then diverged a bit. The blue cheese was sharp and crumbly while the Gruyere was a little sweet and creamy. Combined they created a depth of flavor that made the burger memorable. The last topping and the smartest was the addition of arugula. This bold, mustardy, peppery green cut through all the rich flavors on the burger and allowed you too keep coming back for more. Any other green would not have stood up to the cheese, onions, and bacon. Smart move by the chef. All in all this was a solid burger and well worth the $12 price tag.
While I would not go out of my way to come back, Father’s Office is a good local haunt and one I would frequent if I lived in the area. Solid food and solid beer but a tad overpriced. I wonder what it really looks like on a Saturday night but since I don’t deal well in a packed environment, I will just take other people’s word for it.
Overall Review: 7/10
Check out their menu and beer options here p.s their website is somewhat annoying
At the Palm Spring’s Food Truck Festival I was lucky enough to encounter a new list item in the Cool Haus Food Truck. The great thing about this truck is that it is a paint by numbers ice cream sandwich machine. For five dollars you get to pick two things. First, you choose from five different types of cookie ranging from red velvet to chocolate chip to my choice, double chocolate cookie. Second, you choose the homemade ice cream. The flavors were all over the map, some traditional like vanilla bean and some way out there like Makers Mark Manhattan cocktail. Whats great is that the flavors change regularly so there is always something new to try. Since you mix and match, with just what they had that day, there were fifty possible combinations of ice cream or sorbet sandwiches. The last cool thing about this truck is that the wrappers for the sandwiches were edible! No need to peel it back and get ice cream all over you because you can eat the wrapper as you go. Brilliant! Such a simple concept but when you love what you do and do it well, simple is all you need.
So the moment arrived for me to make a decision and just like my favorite blizzard from Dairy Queen, I could not resist the dirty mint chip ice cream. This ice cream was made with fresh mint leaves and chocolate chips mixed in to the dairy to give it a rich full flavor. For my sandwich I asked for the double chocolate cookie with grey sea salt added on to it. Grey sea salt or “Sel Gris” is a special salt from France which is coarse and denser than kosher salt. This allows for less to be used for greater results and it is visible when on the cookie.
After a short thirty second wait by glorious ice cream sandwich was in my hand. This was without question the best ice cream sandwich I had ever eaten. Chipwich be damned! Each bite had crunchy chips in the wonderful minty ice cream. The chocolate cookie was rich and chewy and the salt contrast brought out extra sweetness from all the ingredients. By far the best part was the burst of minty freshness brought out by the mint leaves mixed into the ice cream. Though I was eating a heavy ice cream with two huge and gooey cookies, the mint made me think that it was much lighter than it could possibly be. I devoured this dessert, paper and all barely coming up for air. I could eat one of these cookies every day, well at least until diabetes set in.
The Cool Haus truck was a great add to the Food Truck festival and no wonder people follow it around town in Los Angeles. Hopefully the next time I visit they will have the pistachio ice cream because it was the actual item on my list. Check out Cool Haus the next time you are in town, you will not be disappointed.
Overall Review: 8/10
Track the Cool Haus truck by checking out their website here
After cleaning up and changing after the LA Marathon we headed over to Spago for a post race dinner adventure. We arrived a few minutes early and had to wait in the corner until it was time to seat us. This was a very nice restaurant with an open kitchen and some nice art. They had some issues with the temperature during our meal so it was either freezing or burning hot which was strange for such an expensive restaurant. After about fifteen minutes we were at our table and ready to eat.
I’m going to try not to make comparisons to Scarpetta because they are different genres of food but I will do it for the service. While Scarpetta was expensive they created an experience through their service that allowed you to forget the prices of the food. Spago was the complete opposite. Maybe they could smell the middle class on us but I felt out of place and completely unwelcome throughout the entire meal. When we walked in we were barely acknowledged while “regulars” got a grand welcome. We were sent to a table with two chairs so I had to stand, no one came over to help us all sit together let alone ask if we wanted drinks. I was even wearing my marathon finishers medal and not one person even looked at me let alone acknowledge the marathon. Our waiter seemed disinterested in us and we waited a while to order because they served the people they knew first. The person who paid the most attention to us was the bread guy so I am thankful for that at least. With such a cold and uncaring service it was hard to appreciate the food that we ate. At Scarpetta we didn’t want to leave but at Spago all I could think about was how late it would be when we got home. Kind of sad for what would end up being a $300 meal.
We ordered our food and then experienced the weirdest bread service. They had a guy whose sole job was to serve us bread one piece at a time. After each finished piece he would come back with his tray of bread and serve you another of your choosing. I’m not sure I understand that but whatever the strange part was that while the bread was served fancy it was in no way fancy itself. In addition the butter may as well have been supermarket brand. It was not spruced up in any way and did not seem to fit with the way the bread was served. Anyway, I ate like eight pieces of bread so I made our guy earn his paycheck that night.
After a little while and in a dining room that had become twenty degrees hotter since we arrived, our appetizers appeared. I ordered the risotto with Maine lobster, stone crab, lemon, garlic, and basil. This was a very well done risotto, creamy and full of flavor. The lobster and crab were cooked to perfection and made the dish extremely rich. While you would think creamy seafood risotto would be very heavy the lemon and herbs kept it tasting fresh and light. This was a very good combination of flavors and a well thought out dish. I polished it off pretty quickly partly because it was delicious and partly because I was really hungry from the race.
Next came the entrees accompanied by intense cold now that they turned on the air conditioning. My dish was the seared Maine diver scallops. Now this entree was inspired, I have to give props where they are due. First of all, they gave me four full scallops which made me feel OK about the $39 price tag. Usually for that price and for diver scallops, you would get two, maybe three, so the size of this entree made me happy.
The presentation was gorgeous and obviously prepared with a deft hand. Layered on top of whole peas, a pea puree, and a balsamic reduction, these scallops were perfectly seared and delicious. The most impressive part of the whole dish was the foam lying on top of the scallops themselves. While it did not add a huge amount of discernible flavor to the dish it just looked so cool on top and as you can see made the picture frame worthy. Mixed together the flavor profile was unique and made me want to come back for each bite until only sauce and some greens were left. The peas, in my opinion, were what made this dish. Whole and pureed they tied everything together and added a fresh taste to the seafood. Just like the cauliflower they day before, these peas were the shocking superstar of the night. No what I would have thought with diver scallops on top but a reality nonetheless. The sad thing is that the menu changed since we ate at Spago so the scallop recipe calls for a different supporting cast so this may have been the one and only time I ate this dish. Sad but better than never getting it at all.
Though I was pretty full my list item was dessert so I had to press on. Kaiserschmarren is impossible to pronounce and was Wolfgang Pucks favorite as a child. That is why it is on the menu at a restaurant next to deconstructed this and foam that. I am not a huge dessert or pancake fan and this was a combo of the two but surprisingly enough I liked the Kaiserschmarren.With a chunky strawberry sauce on the bottom, the pancake looking dessert was anything but. The outside was fried, fluffy, and soft but when you got inside you discover what makes it a great dessert. The recipe calls for creme fraiche in the batter and then a soft meringue mixed in. This made the inside of the cakes, complete mush in a very good way. Impressively sweet, right on the edge of too much this was a great dish and a perfect way to end the meal. Mixed with the strawberries it really felt like breakfast but so much better. I would order this again and with the recipe, I can try to make it at home.
I am really torn with my review of Spago. The food was very good and I really can’t complain about the meal but the service was pretentious and somewhat upsetting. If I am going to come to a fancy restaurant I expect to be treated like their favorite customer every time. I just did not get that feeling in any way at Spago, to be honest I felt like they did not want us there from the start. With that coupled by the weird bread service, the disengagement from our waiter, and the huge temperature shifts, I cannot give Spago a great rating because it just was not fun. Eating out should be an experience, if I wanted to shovel in food and go home I would go get fast food at a drive through. If I am going to spend my entire month’s food budget on one meal, I expect to be treated like I belong to be in the room. It is for this reason that I won’t be back even though the food was undeniably delicious. Thankfully I won’t miss the sea scallops because the menu has already changed.
Overall Rating: 5/10
You can find the ever changing Spago menu here
After four months of training marathon weekend had finally arrived. We drove out in the pouring rain to stop by the expo and get my race bib. The expo was huge and it was cool to be right outside of Dodger stadium but we arrived late and it was cold and wet so a long stay was not in the cards. I checked in and got my bib but then went over to the store to have my number ironed onto a new technical tee. This was a really cool option because it allowed me to leave the paper bib off my clothes in order to avoid chaffing. My mom also bought me a birthday present, a frame to hold my medal, race picture, and engraved finishing time. That would be a really cool addition to my office if and only if I finished under my goal pace. Before we left I found my pace time starting area to take a before picture.
We left the expo and headed over to the Millennium Biltmore hotel to get checked in. After a few minutes waiting we dropped off the car and got up to the room. It was really nice to be at such a high end hotel at a much cheaper race rate. Even the parking was discounted for people running in the marathon. A few hours later we headed over to Scarpetta for my prerace carbo load dinner. Take a look at my most recent review for info on that amazing meal. After dinner we settled in to get a good night sleep but of course adrenaline and anxiety took over. I spent the next seven hours having my trademark weird dreams followed by an accelerated heart beat which only allowed me to sleep for a few hours. Completely expected but still really annoying.
At 5am I got out of bed and began to get ready for the race. We left to drive over to Dodger stadium and I made my first of two tactical errors. I listened to the guy at check in and tried to take the side streets right to the stadium. To my dismay every access point was closed so after 15 minutes of driving around we were finally forced onto the highway like all the other idiot drivers. Traffic was ridiculous and it took us almost 45 minutes to get through the one open entrance to the stadium. I even had to get out of the car and let my mom park so I could get in line for the bathroom. Next year we stay at a hotel closer to Santa Monica because the shuttles were able to get in a different way and the travel time was much shorter. The second tactical error was not filling up my water bottles at the hotel because the bathroom lines made it impossible for me to leave and get that stuff ready. I had to send my mom on an expedition to find water or else I would have been in a bad way. Last note of prerace, they did not have nearly enough bathrooms. I spent thirty minutes waiting in line and came dangerously close to missing the start of the race.
In an uncomfortable hurry up offense, I made it to the start with five minutes to spare, no real stretching this race. The starting area was jammed with people and there was no way that I would made it to the 9:00 pace time so I just started in the back with the goal of catching up. The good thing is that this allowed Virginia to get some final pictures before the race began. Finally, it was time. The gun went off and I got ready to run. But, wait, seventeen thousand other people had the same idea so after a very slow ten minute walk I made it over the start and we were on our way. I guess I did have time to stretch after all.
And I was off! Marathon #1 here we go! A note on the weather, it was beautiful. Everyone was so fearful because of last year’s run and the fact that it was cold and pouring on Saturday. Somehow it all worked out and it was 55 degrees, no wind, and a mix of cloudy and sunny. You could not ask for better running weather, thank god I didn’t try and layer or I would have been a mess. The first mile was just me getting the nervousness out and finding my pace time. At mile two things went a little awry, a guy bumped into me and messed up my runmeter app (stupid me for not locking it). It took me a little bit to fix it but I wouldn’t notice the real impact until mile 25 so I will talk about that later.
Here was the next issue. At races they generally have pace leaders who hold signs stating the pace and finish time. I came upon a group of people with balloons of the number nine. A few of those people had shirts that said “Pace Leader” so I made the stupid assumption that this was the nine minute mile pace. I settled in with them but after a few updates from my phone saying that I was pacing at ten minutes, I realized that something was wrong. I decided to speed up and spent a few miles running at my own pace. About 45 minutes later I came upon a person holding a real placard as an actual pace card holder. It turns out the people I was following were just a team and that was group number nine. Frustrating! Well, this person was the 9:30 pace leader and I had to average 9:09 to hit my pace time so at this point I was already a few minutes behind my goal. This meant that I had to pick up my pace progressively as the race went on. Not ideal but I was determined.
As we all settled into the race things got pretty smooth. Most of this race was slightly downhill which was very nice and allowed for me to set in a pace and cruise along. The amount of support for this race was amazing. Almost every mile there were dozens of people giving out a variety of snacks, drinks, and encouragement. I tried to stay away from these things because you never know how they will impact you and I had all my supplements in my waist belt. One thing that I was all over were the Vaseline boards. Yes, people were standing every so often with post board covered with Vaseline. You could just run by and swipe some off and use as you needed. I learned my lesson in Seattle so I made sure to hit these folks up quite often. Awesome!
I reached the halfway point feeling good but I was still three minutes behind my goal at 2:03. I knew that I could not sustain a faster pace to make this time up so a new game plan was needed. What I then decided to do was to run a nine minute pace for 25 minutes and then accelerate to a seven minute pace for 5 minutes and repeat that for the rest of the race. It was my hope that this would get me back under my goal pace by the time we hit Santa Monica. This would allow me to activate different muscle groups and have time to recover.
We ran through Hollywood and past the stars and street artists and soon hit Beverly Hills. I waived to Scarpetta and ran through Rodeo drive. This was really cool and they had a huge screen that people could use to send messages to their friends running the race. As we reached mile 20 it started to get a little rough and I was running out of water so I had to spend some time refilling at water stations. Throughout this race people were sending me messages over my apps and it was at this time that I needed their support the most. I thank them all for sending me encouragement throughout the day; I was empowered and energized by the outpouring of support from across the country.
After mile 22 and getting into mile 23 my knee started to ache and I was getting winded. I was struggling to conserve water and I was out of gels so it was time to abandon all plans and go for the support on the sidewalks. I started shoveling in gummy bears, pretzels, fruit, and PowerAde until I made it to the one Clif Energy Shot station. I still can’t believe that they only had one station, some half marathons I’ve run had three or more so this was the one part of the race that ticked me off. I grabbed two shots and finally all the sugar and carbs kicked in and carried me to mile 25.
At this point my phone had been telling me that I was on track to finish under my goal time but then the phone issue from mile 2 came back to haunt me. A few minutes after I passed under the archway claiming “Mile 25!” my phone spoke to me and said, “You’ve made it to Mile 26!” It was at this time that I realized that my tracking was off by 8/10 of a mile. Now, though my phone said my pace was on track I was actually still way behind. I had been running much slower than I thought so now my goal was at major risk.
In a complete panic, I picked up the pace. Soon I was crossing under the seven minute per mile pace and continued to speed up. My phone soon told me that I was done but I had yet to hit mile 26. It was now time to focus solely on the actual elapsed time and it soon hit 3:55. I had five minutes left and the mile 26 archway was in view. I blew by that marker and rounded the final turn to Ocean Ave in Santa Monica. At this point I was in a full sprint with only a few minutes left. I took the side of the road to avoid on the hobbling and tired people passing dozens every few seconds. People were reaching hands out for high fives and I was ducking under them in stride. With less than a minute left I was a few hundred feet away from the end when I heard my mom yell out “Go Steven!” I looked back real quick and then pressed ahead.
I crossed the finish line at the fastest pace all day with my arms held high in victory! The clock read 4:06 but I knew it was not my chip time because of the bottleneck at the start. I looked at my phone and it said I was indeed under four hours but still unofficial. I walked through the finish, received my medal, ate some snacks and made my way to my mom and Virginia. Soon we were on the way to the car but I was still wondering my official time. Finally, the texts came in and my time was official 3:59:33! I made it and my goal was realized. My last mile was completed in 6:30 and that last sprint was the only think that pushed me over the top. Tired but filled with endorphins it was time to shower at the hotel and head over to our victory dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. The LA Marathon was a great race, well planned, with a beautiful course. I will be back next year with a goal of 3:45!
In the next few paragraphs I am going to talk about my experience at Scarpetta Beverly Hills. Our adventure that night was one of the best I have had in a long time and possibly ever. I will say right now that this restaurant received my second perfect rating for many reasons so if you want to stop reading now and make a reservation for tonight I won’t hold it against you. If not, please read on.
The night before I ran the LA marathon we decided to do an upscale carbo load dinner. We drove out to Beverly Hills for our six o’clock reservation. We arrived a bit early so they sat us at the bar where we ordered some wine and snacked on delicious candied almonds and homemade chips. While the wine was a bit expensive they actually serve it to you in a carafe which gets you almost two glasses. I ordered a red which was very smooth and a great complement to what would prove to be a fantastic meal. After a few minutes they sat us in the upstairs section of the restaurant and we settled in to feast on a modern Italian meal. We met Dan our waiter and he talked with us about the menu. I also let him know that I was running in the marathon the next day and that it was my carbo load dinner.
After we put in our order they brought out the bread basket and spreads. Most places will give you some homemade bread and some butter but not Scarpetta. No, they gave us three different kinds of bread including Stromboli bread! A pinwheel of bread, meat, and mozzarella cheese baked to perfection. It didn’t end there though, they brought along three different kinds of spread. First a simple citrus infused olive oil on the left. Next to that butter, but not just simple butter, a sweet marscapone butter. Last but certainly not least a roasted eggplant carbonara. While the first two were good the eggplant was ridiculous. I could have eaten that all night and when our busboy noticed how much we enjoyed it he slipped us a second container. That is that type of service I always want to have and I will add to that thought a bit later on in this review. A great start but now we were ready for some appetizers.
I could tell at the beginning of this meal that the staff at Scarpetta were well trained, organized, and efficient. The presentation of the appetizers was proof of that. Each dish was brought out by a different person and as they timed it by a cue from Dan each of us had food in front of us at the same time. Now I admit that we over ordered but we all shared and I needed the calories for my race so whatever. My official appetizer was the raw yellowtail topped with pickled red onions. This was a mild appetizer, with a nice bite from the onions but not too much to outshine the fish. A really good appetizer though not the ones I want to focus on in this review. What I will say is that I did find it funny that Mr. Conant served red onions on a dish since he tears people apart on Chopped over them but I guess if you pickle them it’s OK. Take this into account future Chopped contestants.
Now my mom ordered creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms, a fancy name for an equally fancy dish. Served in two parts it allowed you to mix in the mushrooms at your own pace. This was a nice touch because you never know how much mushroom one person can handle especially with the intense flavor of truffle. While I would not order polenta if I was alone I count myself lucky that my mom did. The presentation was really cool and the flavor was amazing. Extremely rich so it was hard to finish which meant that I got to eat some! The polenta was super creamy and great all by itself but when mixed with the mushrooms the dish was brought to a whole other level. The flavors are hard to describe but they are something to remember. I agree though that you have to share because the polenta and truffled mushrooms are too much for one person to handle.
The final appetizer that I want to talk about was by far the best one. In the center of the table they placed two lonely scallops to which I declared “Only two!?” Little did I know the flavors they imparted on these two scallops make it seem like you had so much more. Twice in this meal I had a dish where each bite made me want to lean back, close my eyes, and enjoy. This was definitely one of them. The sea scallops were cooked perfectly with a wonderful sear on each side yet soft and chewy on the inside. Add to scallops a delicious sauce, mushrooms, and sunchokes and an awesome dish begins to coalesce. The surprising and most unique aspect of this dish was the cauliflower. I would never have thought to add cauliflower to scallops but now it is all I can think of. The subtle crunch mixed in with the sauce and the soft scallops made everything come together. For this item it was imperative that each aspect be on each individual fork full. I love to have a dish like that because it means that a lot of thought went into each ingredient and how they worked together. Nothing on that plate was there by accident and because of that fact two scallops were more than enough. Order these when you go or you will be sorry.
As we were waiting for our entrees to arrive the manager came out to check on us. Kendra was really nice and spent a bit of time with us making us feel welcome and appreciated for coming to the restaurant. It was nice to see them so attentive and that is why they are probably full up every night. We also spoke about the fact that I was running the next morning and she told me that I was the first marathoner to come in for a carbo load dinner. It was a fun conversation that would have been enough but there was more to it at the end of the meal.
Our entrees arrived with a few sides. We ordered the potato gnocchi with truffle and Parmesan and the broccoli rabe with ceci beans, caramelized shallots and garlic chips. The gnocchi were superbly prepared, creamy, and rich. I don’t normally eat gnocchi but Virginia did and she thoroughly enjoyed them. I want to talk about the broccoli rabe for a minute. This was a vegetable at its best! With ceci beans (chickpeas) and crazy good garlic chips you would think the broccoli would be lost but that is why they used broccoli rabe. The flavor of the rabe is bolder and more assertive so it could hold up to the other ingredients and yet the garlic was present in every bite. If you don’t like garlic this side is not for you but then we have no reason to eat out together anyway so do what you want.
Though I was starting to fill up it was time for dinner. Once again our dishes were served in unison and since they were all covered the wait staff unveiled them together by cue of our waiter Dan. This type of presentation makes you feel like royalty and we hadn’t even tasted the entrees yet! I decided to go outside the box and ordered the short rib agnolotti. Agnolotti, as I learned, is a mini stuffed pouch of pasta which in this case was stuffed with braised short rib, mushrooms, and horseradish. Such an interesting combo, I had never had horseradish in pasta but Passover was a few weeks away so why not! Just to mix it up Virginia ordered the actual list item, the tomato and basil spaghetti and she said she would get it again.
My pasta was cooked in brown butter and accompanied by hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese. Yes, hazelnuts. At this point I had thrown out everything I thought I knew about Italian food and just let it happen. Everything about this pasta was different and a little crazy but my god it was incredible. The angolotti was fresh handmade and cooked a little al dente as it should be. Simple but incredibly important and generally impossible to find in the chain world of Italian food today. The filling was something special. The short rib was soft and full of flavor but the surprising stars were the horseradish and hazelnuts. The two ingredients that were the most out of the box were by far the reason why this entree was so damn good. This was my second sit back and enjoy dish of the night and I think it was really due to the delivery. Each agnolotti was one bite and allowed you to get every ingredient every time. This allowed me to eat slowly which was good because I was so sad to be finished. This pasta rivaled the meals we had in Rome and that is saying something.
It was now time for dessert and I was full but that wouldn’t stop me. I looked for something light and settled on the coconut panna cotta with guava soup and caramelized pineapple. This whole dessert was a nice pallet cleanser because it was cold and fruity sort of like a melted sorbet. I really enjoyed it and it just looked really cool. I really find it impressive when you get a bowl or a cup of something and the colors are layered. In this dessert it was two layers next to each other which was visually pleasing and only created by a intense attention to detail. I nice ending to a wonderful meal.
The food alone at Scarpetta would bring me back again but it was the service that has convinced Virginia and I to move our anniversary celebration from Duane’s and the Mission Inn to Scarpetta and the Montage. Dan and the waitstaff had a wonderful knowledge of the food and were so attentive and friendly that you felt like a member of the family. This is hard to do in an upscale restaurant and often ignored completely. The chairs were huge and cushy which made us not want to leave since we could have slept in them. All of that would have been enough but Kendra, the manager, sent it over the top. I mentioned earlier that she spoke with me about the marathon I was running the next morning and she did not forget. As we were getting ready to pay she came back with a gift bag. The gift bag was full of supplies for the run from the Montage hotel. It had water, nuts, fruit, and a hat. It was also accompanied by a card wishing me good luck in the race. I was completely floored by this gesture. This was not something restaurants do for a first time visitor but Scarpetta apparently does. I was touched by this and it really speaks to the character of the employees and the commitment they have to their craft. With management like Kendra it was no surprise that they have waiters like Dan.
Our adventure at Scarpetta was one that we will embark on many more times and it will be my official carbo load dinner for next year’s LA marathon. Now, it is quite expensive, about $100 per person but twice a year it is completely worth the investment in your taste buds. In all honesty this was one of the best meals I have ever had including our ten days in Italy. Not just Italian meals, it was better than almost any place I had ever been to. It was not just the food, it was the detail in the ambiance and the commitment to fabulous service that vaulted Scarpetta to the top of my list. But yes, the food was unreal. Just like Buddakan in Philly, Scarpetta is a must go when you visit LA. Make your reservation and thank me later. Scott Conant, you done good sir.
Overall Review: 10/10 – No question
Check out the wonderful options as Scarpetta Beverly Hills by clicking here
I took a trip to drive a friend to the airport and figured while I was near Los Angeles at 8am I might as well check out a restaurant on my list. The breakfast pizza at Little Dom’s perked my interest so I headed out there and arrived a few minutes after they opened. I was the first customer of the day which meant I would get some fresh food and good service. Little Dom’s is a well put together Italian restaurant with some very good decor and nice comfortable booth seats. I grabbed my seat and looked around. The one thing that stuck out was the old school bar. Fully made out of wood with a nice outdoorsy picture above the back. This bar looked like a place where made men would hang out if we were on the east coast and this was the 1960′s. I felt the need to put a suit on and order some hard liquor, too bad it was only five minutes after nine.
I perused the menu just to check it out knowing very well what I was too order. I asked for a glass of grapefruit juice and the highly lauded breakfast pizza. This would mark the first time I had eggs on a pizza in addition to speck. What is speck, you ask? Well I had that same question. Speck is a type of prosciutto that is both salt cured and slow smoked. The big difference between speck and other prosciutto is that speck is deboned before the curing process. After the curing process it is cold smoked over a week and then aged for around six months. Such a process is the reason why prosciutto is so salty, flavorful, and expensive.
My juice came out quickly and as is getting to be the norm, my five dollars got me a glass fit for a child. Two gulps and it was gone, long before my pizza arrived. I really wish restaurants would stop being cheap when it comes to juices, it would make me so much happier. That feeling of frustration ebbed as soon as my pizza arrived. Served on a wood plank on top of some parchment paper this pizza looked marvelous. Just take a look, this pizza was just too pretty to shrink the picture.
The bread was super thin and wonderfully crispy, fresh out of a wood fire oven. The mozzarella was melted beautifully and was extremely stringy. I cut into the perfectly cooked eggs and spread the yolk across the pizza. The speck was a little hard to cut but the manager went and procured me a sharper knife to aid in my adventure. Everything about this pizza was well thought out and worked perfectly together. The speck was soft and salty which was balanced out by the creaminess of the egg yolk. The crust was just like the toast you would use to soak up the egg only better. The cheese and light application of sauce made sure you remembered that this was a pizza even with the breakfast items on top. Last but not least the basil was a great addition and made me reflect on the pizzas we had in Naples. Lightly charred, fresh, and flavorful it tied the whole dish together in a great way. Each bite was better than the last and I finished it way too fast. My first breakfast pizza was a great success!
Little Dom’s didn’t let me down and I would recommend it if you want to try a great breakfast pizza though I would discourage ordering any fresh squeezed juices. With such a delicious breakfast option I am sure that the rest of the menu is cooked with great care. I would encourage you to try it any time of day because this is Italian food like you would get in New York City.
Overall Review: 8/10
Check out Little Dom’s and their many pizza options here
At the food truck festival last week my fifth and final truck was the White Rabbit Truck. I was wondering to myself “Why does this name sound familiar”. Well, when I got home and looked I realized that it happened to be a list item brought to you by Outrageous Food on the Food Network. The list item was the burrito and I am a little sad that I did not get it but, oh well, next time. Take a look at the menu below, pretty simple but pretty awesome.
I had a conversation with the nice girl at the register and she told me that her favorite was the Pork Sisig. With that recommendation I ordered the three sisig tacos but to my delight she told me that I could mix and match. Oh glory day! So, not only did I get the Pork Sisig (Below left), I ordered the Pork Tocino (Below center) and the Chicken Adobo (Below right). Though I am sad that I did not try the burrito I now get to talk about three of the items on this menu.
Let’s start with the Pork Sisig. This was fried pork belly mixed with jalapenosand onions topped with a red cabbage slaw. The pork belly took on thisbeautiful red color and mixed so well with the jalapenos. A little spicy andfull of huge flavor. The cabbage was crunchy and cold which mixed well with therichness of the pork belly. Truly a great taco but oddly not my favorite.
The second taco I tried was the chicken adobo because I wanted to break upthe pork. Honestly, I was not expecting much from a chicken taco but boy was Iwrong. The chicken was soft and super juicy which surprised me and it was bothsweet and savory at the same time. Mmmm to adobo sauce! Just like the last tacothe slaw added a cool crunch that really completed the ensemble. I was reallypleased with this chicken and would eat that one again but, it too, was not myfavorite.
The winner beyond a shadow of a doubt was the Pork Tacino which was curedpork, fried and wrapped in a taco all by itself. This was a truly boldpresentation but if you read my other posts I believe that if you use highquality meat and cook it in an amazing way you really don’t need anything elseadded to it. With this pork the White Rabbit Truck did just that. It wasperfectly fried and super crispy and I got a burst of fried pork flavor witheach individual bite. I was content just eating the pork with my fingers, eventhe taco shell took away from the pork itself. I really think that if theyadded anything to the dish it would have ruined it so I commend them withleaving it unaided. I even regretted adding siracha, but I guess I have to livewith that. By far the best of the three and without a doubt the best thing Iate all day.
In my book the White Rabbit truck was definitely a winner and I am glad Igot to taste three of their meat selections; each great in its own way with theTacino edging out the pack. Next time I am in LA I will track it down and trythe burrito and I suggest you do the same. For a food truck with to realambiance to judge I give this a top rating and would not hesitate to recommendit to others. One cool thing to note is that they have a restaurant too so youcan order quick from a truck or sit down and have a meal. Either way, I bet youwill not be disappointed.
Overall Rating 10/10