Superba Food + Bread, Venice CA

image586

Superba Food + Bread

image557image568

Heart La Palmera Americano

image571image577

Everything Croissant

image575 image576

Almond Croissant

image583 image584

Banana Cake

image570

Civil War Recipe Biscuit

image581 image582

Vanilla Brioche Cinnamon Bun

image555

Arriving at Venice’s Superba Food + Bread just after 7:30am, and dutifully informed at the hostess podium that breakfast does not begin until nine o’clock on weekends, I assured the young lady that would not be a problem; my interests fully invested in the fresh pastry and hot coffee at the renovated former garage from Snack Bar founder Paul Hibler and a well pedigreed culinary team. Located on Lincoln Boulevard, and oft the butt of jokes about $8 toast, a visit to Food + Bread begins by taking in the spacious design and with Fleetwood Mac on the walls while Led Zeppelin tunes are carried by light breeze blowing through open doors one cannot help but feel very “California” – the clientele of surfer-sorts, families, hipsters, and students already studying with free WiFi a sure sign of the restaurant’s wide appeal, in no doubt attributable to the quality of their goods. Admittedly hard-selling concepts of organic, sustainable, and artisan at nearly every turn it was with wide eyes that I approached the pastry counter after finding a seat and with no less than fifteen options appealing to my post-run appetite it was only through significant restraint that I selected a mere five, the addition of an Americano from my favorite coffee roaster plus tax and tip tallying a hefty $25, but not a single item unworthy of the expense. Beginning first with a delicate biscuit tinged in both butter and buttermilk from a recipe said to date back hundreds of years one would be hard pressed to decide whether this or the one from Republique is the new reference standard outside the deep South, and moving quickly to an item I’d generally not order had I not heard so many good things the “Everything Croissant” was even more compelling, the still warm laminated pastry intensely aromatic with melting cream cheese filling the yawning caverns within. At this point moving into my wheel house with a trio of sweets, a first bite of the sugar lacquered almond croissant found the shattering pastry still warm within and although I generally prefer a bit more subtlety the intense sweetness sealed in the double-baked beauty was exceedingly natural, not a speck of frangipane to be found. Moving onward through a springy cinnamon roll that balanced its eponymous aromatics with butter with vanilla-spiked glaze it was finally in an appropriately named banana ‘cake’ sliced like bread that the meal culminated, the small slab seemingly supersaturated with ripe fruit while an aggressive spice profile perfumed the palate beneath salty-caramel cream.

image567

RECOMMENDED: Coffee, however you take it. Everything Croissant. Banana Cake. Buttermilk Biscuit.

image561

AVOID: Arriving too early as new items emerge from the kitchen up until breakfast begins at 9:00am with fresh bakes then occurring throughout the day to replenish supplies.

image562

TIP: Offering free WiFi, Comfortable Seating, and tableside service that ramps up when breakfast begins this is the sort of place where people are prone to linger, the outdoor patio an option for those wishing to enjoy the sun, though waits reportedly as long as an hour after 10am during Saturday and Sunday brunch may make the grab and go pastry counter and barista bar a better option for those on the go.

image585

http://superbafoodandbread.com/

Superba Food and Bread on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, California, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Heart, Los Angeles, Superba Food + Bread, Vacation, Venice

Trois Mec, Los Angeles CA

image331

Trois Mec

image411 image413

Duche de Longueville French Sparkling Cider

image416

Buckwheat Popcorn

image417 image419

Salad Tarte

image421 image424

Crispy Tapioca

image426 image427

Garlic Bread

image428 image429

Dijon Mustard Crème Brulee

image433

Plum, Mint, Meyer Lemon, Molasses Infusion

image434 image435

Spot Prawn, Fermented Black Walnut, Tomato, Horseradish Crème Fraiche

image437

Bread Water Tea

image440 image441

Grilled Eggplant Caviar, Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Honey, Melon

image443

Fennel Gibson Soda

image445 image446

Sunchokes, Long Beans, Sunflower Seed, Hummus, Thyme

image447 image450

Vanilla Butter Cappuccino

image453 image454

Potato Pulp, Onion Subise, Brown Butter, Bonito, Salers Cheese

image457

Blackberry, Black Walnut, Sage

image462 image466

Grilled Beef Belly, Abalone Mushroom, Herb Jus

image471

Matcha Green Tea and Coconut Water

image475 image477

Carolina Gold Rice Pudding, Brown Butter, Egg Yolk

image478 image479

Smoked Canele and Apple Tart with Fennel

image410 image409

Amongst the most difficult reservations in the United States, and only open for a pair of seatings from Monday through Friday, suffice it to say it was through the efforts of a friend that I secured a kitchen-side seat to Trois Mec on Friday night – our 6:30pm arrival to a boisterous “Bonsoir” followed by two and a half hours of superlative dining in which food, drink, and service more than lived up to exorbitant expectations. As permanent a home as pop-up king Ludo Lefebvre has seen in some time, Trois Mec also sees the talents of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo exhibited through the work of a well trained team, and although none of the “Three Guys” were present for more than a few minutes of our stay there was not a moment of the night where the room was not completely abuzz, nor one plate where the cuisine did not entirely succeed – a lone mis-pairing of “breadwater” tea from the $25 non-alcoholic pairing the only thing short of perfection in a meal featuring a dozen individual plates stretching from snack-size to decidedly more substantial. Pre-paid via credit card with only beverages plus a single supplement to be added at the table the meal began with a quintet of snacks and opening the palate with textures from crisp to creamy and up-front flavors including pungent garlic and mustard rendered sweet the overall result was one of intrigue, a “wonder what’s next” effect building in each bite. Long known as a master of melding bold flavors it was with snappy spot prawns beneath an heirloom tomato blanket that Ludo started the proper tasting and with potent black walnut playing off the heat of horseradish one couldn’t help but marvel at the balance, a completely different yet equally compelling experience rendered by a follow-up bowl of smoke and sweet with the ribbons of pork melting into an otherwise refreshing and fruity broth. Treated next to a texturally complex salad that found even more nuance in aromatic soda it was at course four that the highly praised supplement arrived and with a warm broth rife with both butter and foam as its companion it would be a fool’s folly for anyone to pass on the potato pulp, the cheese and subise elevating dueling layers of starch far beyond any side-dish or the $12 surcharge. Rounding out the savories with fatty beef belly and buttery mushrooms lent balance by both the paired beverage as well as the herb-infused jus it was onward to dessert that the menu progressed and with a sous-vide candied egg yolk adding sweetness plus texture the rice pudding was nothing short of a masterpiece, a strong contender for 2014’s ten best desserts. Finally culminating in a duo of mignardises as the clock struck nine it was with broad smiles that my friend and I discussed the experience as a whole and although we both admitted a bit of skepticism prior to entry there was not an ounce left on exit, Trois Mec undoubteldy ranking amongst Los Angeles’ very best.

image407image431

RECOMMENDED: As the menu is pre-set the decisions are minimal, our selections of non-alcoholic pairings and the Potato Pulp both well worth the supplemental $25 and $12, respectively.

image451image456

AVOID: Preconceptions that Trois Mec is merely the product of hype and a tricky reservation system.

image468image467

TIP: Pay close attention to the restaurant’s website for on-sale dates and, if possible, gather a group large enough to reserve one of the 6 seat spots – the larger tables occasionally available for up to an hour after sales open for Mondays and Tuesdays while 2 or 4-tops are often completely sold out in 60 seconds or less.

image406

http://www.troismec.com/

Trois Mec on Urbanspoon

Posted in California, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Pork, Tasting Menu, Trois Mec, Vacation

Mud Hen Tavern, Los Angeles CA

image379

Mud Hen Tavern

image388image390

Kaya Toast – Coconut Jam served open face on Toasted Bread with Soft Fried Egg and Dark Soy

image391image395

Chicken and Waffle Croquettes – Bacon, Spicy Maple Sauce

image394 image393

Buffalo Potato Poppers – Warm Blue Cheese and Celery Ranch

image398 image396

Marguerita Pizza – Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Fresh Basil

image400 image399

Pumpkin Ravioli – Shitake Mushroom, Truffle Oil, Garlic, Gruyere

image401 image404

Coffee and Donuts – Chocolate Coated Cake Donut, Espresso Cream, Coffee Anglaise

image381

Owned and operated by Susan Feniger, a Toledo native like myself, and filling the old “Street” space just steps from Trois Mec, it was with some intrigue that myself and a friend entered Mud Hen Tavern for Happy Hour – a clever menu and bubbly, if somewhat overbearing, service filling the hour before dinner with hits and misses, both. Annoyingly described as ‘tapas’ when our waitress stated it was necessary to move us from patio to bar in order to enjoy a happy-hour menu not offered in the “main dining room” it seemed a strange choice considering the fact that the restaurant was never more than a quarter full, yet abiding by the policy we soon sat at a communal high top, an eventual order of a half dozen items coming together with only the worst of them receiving any discount from the disappointing menu for which we’d migrated. Beginning first with a few ‘signatures,’ it was in Kaya Toast alongside the clever Croquettes that our meal began and with both items trending quite sweet the opening act was admittedly quite strong, the dense jam juxtaposing salty soy particularly enthralling in the first while aromatic chicken sausage found its foil in buttery batter topped with Sriracha spiced maple syrup in the second. Moving next to a less successful duo, the $6 potato poppers were essentially four small nuggets of baked potato meant to replicated wings and although certainly lighter than the classic I’d have rather just had chicken, the quality of the bleu a lone standout and something I only wish would have been present on the flavorless thin-crust pizza, a half-off mess from happy hour that made me wonder if Chef Feniger had, in fact, raided my highschool cafeteria to crib their recipe note-for-note. Partially returning to form with delicate pasta that unfortunately suffered from too heavy a hand with truffle oil despite the creamy autumnal filling and mushrooms plus cheese that also would have benefitted the aforementioned pie, it was finally in dessert that we finished and although the summer peach variety listed on the website have now been replaced by coffee and cream, the rumors of excellent donuts remained true – the still-steaming butter-cake coated in chocolate sopping up a pool of chicory tinged anglaise from the bottom and vibrant espresso cream from above.

image383

RECOMMENDED: Kaya Toast, Chicken and Waffle Croquettes, Donut.

image384

AVOID: Pizza, Buffalo Potato Poppers.

image405

TIP: Not particularly a bargain, even at happy hour, service here seems to thrive on the upsell and assumptions that all diners are dumb while they themselves cannot seem to take a hint, cocktails offered again and again (and again) while comments about the pizza were brushed aside without hardly an acknowledgement…odd for a place attempting to push a ‘community card’ with rewards for return visits on anyone who will listen.

image387

http://www.mudhentavern.com/

Mud Hen Tavern on Urbanspoon

Posted in California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Mud Hen Tavern, Pizza, Vacation, Waffles

Petit Trois, Los Angeles CA

image330

Petit Trois

image335 image336

Baguette with Brittany Butter

image338 image340  image344

Gougere

image341 image343

Pork Terrine in Aspic

image345 image346

Green Bean Salad with Horseradish and Plum

image347 image348

Salmon Rillette

image356 image358

Omelette with Boursin Cheese

image351 image353 image355

Croque Monsieur

image360 image362

Chicken Leg with Butter Brioche Salad

image363 image365

Steak Tartare with Crispy Shallots

image376 image377

Napoleon with Tahitian Vanilla Cream

image375image334

Espresso on ice, Water

image367 image368 image372

Filling the Tasty Thai space next to white hot Trois Mec, Petit Trois was a logical target for Friday lunch prior to dinner at its upscale sibling and although many have slighted the small space for cramped seating, quick turnover, and high prices one would be hard pressed to name a more impressive French Bistro experience in Southern California…or for that matter, in the United States as a whole. Small and stylized with unforgiving bar-stools set beside marble countertops and a small kitchen where a team of seven never stops moving, the menu at Petit Trois is well-culled to be certain and dining as a trio the only real question was on which items to take a pass, the eventual order entailing all but steak frites, escargot, cheese, and chocolate cake. Treated to superlative service, including substantial interaction with the kitchen staff as they worked, it was with a textbook baguette paired to creamy French butter that our meal began and with both items replenished twice at no extra charge as the meal progressed it was almost fortuitous that the menu items themselves trended somewhat small, the jumbo gougere a lone exception with a cavernous core aromatic in cheese beneath the golden, crisp shell. Progressing next appetizers, a salad of snappy green beans spiced in horseradish cream with levity lent by sweet stonefruit proved unexpectedly excellent while the lone item of the meal that did not wow was a pork terrine too rich with aspic; the spice profile and parts strewn with pork admittedly quite delicious – just too few and far between, a situation entirely the opposite in a substantial plate of smoky salmon served with toasty slices of the aforementioned baguette. Onward to entrees it was an airy omelette stuffed with herbaceous cheese that round three began and although pleasant enough it simply could not stand up to the show-stopping flavors of the oft-raved Croque, an $18 pricetag for a sandwich no bigger than a deck of cards admittedly quite shocking, though the quality of gruyere, béchamel, and ham on pan griddled bread far surpassed any other version tasted to date. At this point asked if about dessert we informed our server that he had forgotten the chicken and with apologies flowing for omitting this from our order (plus a plate of tender steak tartare on the house) it was only after a short delay that the tour de force arrived – a confit, then flash-fried leg served beneath a light salad topped with brown butter soaked brioche almost impossibly crisp on the surface while melt-in-the-mouth flesh teaming with rosemary and chives awaited within. Unable to resist dessert, though all were at this point quite full, it was with great intrigue that we watched the mille-feuille’s a la minute preparation and with top buleed while rough edges were sawed off the small rectangle was absolute reference standard, the sort of thing people line up for in Paris and something everyone lining up outside 718 North Highland Avenue should order without a second thought.

image337

RECOMMENDED: Chicken Leg, Gougere, Mille Feuille (Napoleon,) Salmon Rillette

image350

AVOID: Pork Terrine.

image359

TIP: With tax and 18% gratuity included in the tab and a “credit card only” policy I was personally quite put off by the valet out front. While I’m uncertain if he was employed by the restaurant or by an independent contractor the fact that he insisted I pay twice, at lunch and dinner ($4 and $7, respective) despite the fact that I arrived before he was on duty and left my car in the lot while I wandered the surrounding area between meals is absolutely ridiculous, particularly as he never once even touched my car. My advice? Park on Waring just east of N. Las Palmas and walk a few blocks for free.

image333

http://petittrois.com/

Petit Trois on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Petit Trois, Pork, Vacation

The Bakery at Republique, Los Angeles CA

image288image287

The Bakery at Republique

image292

Iced Americano

image294 image297 image298

Biscuit with Honey and Butter

image314 image315 image316

Hazelnut Paris Brest

image310 image311 image312

Kouign Amann

image307 image308 image309

Canele

image320 image321 image323

Sticky Bun Doughnut

image317 image318 image319

Crème Brulee and Raspberry Jam Bombolini

image301 image304

Reinventing the old Campanile space as an all-day French-infused eatery, complete with imported ovens from France and rotisserie from Italy, there is little doubt that Walter Manzke went ‘all-in’ on Republique, and as much as I’d have liked to visit for dinner despite luke-warm reviews from people I trust the timing simply didn’t work – a breakfast audition featuring the work of Margarita Manzke instead offering some of the best pastries in Los Angeles and plenty of impetus to return during my next trip west.  Truly a beautiful building, with high ceilings and plenty of natural light lending an open and airy feeling to several unique seating options, entry to Republique intentionally sets the visitor face to face to Margarita’s goods and with friendly service both at the counter and within the restaurant confines the only question becomes what not to order as nearly two dozen pastries gleam like jewels behind glass.  Additionally offering a limited menu of breakfast favorites as both the open-bakery and bustling kitchen worked diligently in plain sight it was entirely in options from the bakery side that I devoted my order and although admittedly a gluttonous order of seven the results were universally worthwhile, my first bites of the seemingly expensive $4 buttermilk biscuit immediately reconceptualizing my ‘best ever’ list as softly separating layers melted in my mouth beneath a smear of French butter.  Trying my best to progress from more subtle options to those more sweet it was next in the Canele that I partook and with a sturdy shell that tasted precisely of burnt sugar atop a creamy, custard center I again swooned – the Kouign Amann only slightly less successful in that it was a touch less crisp than others I’ve experienced, a case of splitting hairs as it was still a shattering buttery experience better than most.  Moving onward to heavier flavors it was next in a still-warm brioche doughnut that I indulged and with a sticky lacquer studded with pecans each bite was light and lovely, a true hybrid of the two items from which it was imagined.  A bit underwhelmed by a Paris Brest that likely would have been better off with a few more minutes of baking despite hazelnut cream that was airy yet rich my final bites of Ms. Manzke’s wares came in the form of two delicate Italian styled donuts and although the house-made jam was quite lovely it was the lightly burnt sugar overlying sweet custard that shined brightest, the flavors textures of crunch and cream both bidding for top billing with the soft and yeasty vessel.

image299 image300

RECOMMENDED: Buttermilk Biscuit, Bombolini, Canele, Sticky Bun Doughnut.

image291 image326

AVOID: If you want to be nitpicky, the choux on the Hazelnut Brest was just a touch softer than would be ideal while the concept seemed cribbed from Dominique Ansel’s Paris-New York pastry…but even then, this item was still quite good.

image325image327

TIP: With a selection that rotates not only daily, but throughout the day, those looking for a specific item would be best served to call in advance…or just show up and hope it is there, and if not, order something else with relative assurance that it will be quite good.

image328 image329

http://republiquela.com/

République on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, California, Canele, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Republique, The Bakery at Republique, Vacation

The Larder at Tavern, Los Angeles CA

image255

The Larder at Tavern

image268 image269

Sticky Bun

image270 image271 image273

Almond Croissant

image274 image276 image277

Salted Caramel Brownie

image284 image285 image286

Carrot Cake

image281image280image279

Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Snickerdoodle Cookie

image262 image263

Generally impressed by the food during brunch at A.O.C. despite high prices and service that fell somewhere between poor and nonexistent it was with plans for a leisurely breakfast that I entered Suzanne Goin’s Tavern, but with waitstaff again proving dismissive and downright neglectful of routine duties I quickly rerouted – the ‘larder’ up front a far more casual affair with several pastries tempting behind glass. In essence grab-n’-go, though indoor seating is available with the same menu offered as that in the restaurant, it was entirely in pastry that I invested my appetite and although a request to warm the sticky bun was met with a curt ‘yeah, fine’ by the girl at the counter the rest of the experience was pleasant enough while the goods offered were hit and miss despite being expensive across the board. Beginning first with the aforementioned bun, as nothing else was served until it was warmed, the nut studded brioche can best be called ‘one-note’ given the substantially sweet caramel and moving on to a croissant I expected to disappoint even when I ordered it the results were mostly the same – an odd layer of frosting tossing aside any semblance of nuance and tiling the whole thing sweet despite a nice shatter to the shell. Again underwhelmed by a brownie whose richness overwhelmed any contribution from the lacquer of caramel it was finally in densely spiced carrot cake that Tavern found reprieve and with light ribbons of tangy cream cheese juxtaposing moist cake I’d actually recommend those interested give the Larder a chance if only to buy a slice. Rounding out the order with a trio of cookies that were enjoyed later in the day the Snickerdoodle unfortunately pulled up lame with too much sugar and not enough cinnamon, but faring better the chewy chocolate chip (with a ‘crunchy’ option also available) and the textbook oatmeal raisin were both quite excellent, although perhaps a bit overpriced at $1.95 each.

image264 image265

RECOMMENDED: Carrot Cake, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

image266

AVOID: Almond Croissant, Salted Caramel Brownie

image256 image257

TIP: Parking in the lot next door is offered for two hours, free of charge with validation.

image258

http://tavernla.com/the-larder.html

Tavern on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, California, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Tavern, The Larder at Tavern

Orsa & Winston, Los Angeles CA

image148

Orsa & Winston

image154 image155

Herb Panna Cotta – black olive, nasturtium, grape

image157 image160

Kanpachi – pomegranate, hijiki seaweed, green peanuts, yuzu shiro

image164 image166

House-cured ham & cannellini beans – charred scallion, brown butter, pea tendrils, radish

image174 image175

Tahitian & Delicata squash soup – crème fraiche, nori, purslane, espelette, curry

image170 image171

Gnocchetti – pork ragu, truffle butter

image178 image179

Focaccia Milk Bread – cultured butter, radishes, black cod aioli

image180 image182

Satsuki rice with Uni – chowder, parmesan cream

image183 image187

Squab – romanesco, hazelnut, grape, ume, ash

image191 image193

Sauteed Okra – geoduck, tomato, mustard seed, dill

image195 image198 image200

Egg Raviolo – ricotta, wagyu beef cheek ragu, mushroom, Okinawa purple potatoes

image201 image202

Melon Granita – passion fruit, lavender

image205 image207

Chocolate Mousse – tuile, bergamia, suzu shio

image208 image210 image211

Cannoli – mascarpone mousse, amarena cherries, pistachio ice cream

image215 image217 image219

Tiramisu – caramel pot du crème, espresso granita

image220

Mignardises

image149

Modestly impressed by Baco Mercat and intrigued to see what Josef Centeno’s return to fine dining would look like it was alongside a friend that I sat down at the Chef’s Counter of Orsa & Winston and opting for the eight-course omakase along with three ‘family style’ supplements the experience can best be described as ‘compelling,’ each plate visually impressive and texturally dynamic enough that even occasionally ‘safe’ choices and small service gaffs did not take away from that “wonder what’s next” excitement of a truly memorable meal. Currently priced at $90 for twelve plates, inclusive of extras that rivaled some of the eight printed courses, the evening began with a creamy shooter laced with acid and fruit to balance bitters and moving quickly to slices of raw kanpachi a theme quickly emerged as the snappy fish sat amidst unripened peanuts with pickles and pomegranate, plus a dab of caviar connecting the dots. Moving next to a ‘stew’ I felt to be far too rich and large in portion for so early in the meal before returning to form in a beautiful soup of seasonal squashes, crème fraiche, and curry aromatics with a surprisingly vegetal finish it was at this point that the chef decided to send an a la carte supplement and while the tender pasta itself was impressive enough, it was the richly trufled ragu that really stole the show, each bite featuring a smoky porcine top-note but finishing with earth amidst butter. Returning to the omakase after a bread plate I’d have gladly eaten by the basket given both cultured butter and a briny spread of black cod, I was a little surprised to see the kitchen play it so safe with sea urchin and again going heavy with starches this was a dish where half as much rice would have been even more compelling. Moving next to a small cut of squab that showed the versatility of gamebirds with several interesting accoutrements it was a sort of deconstructed ‘gumbo’ that arrived next, and undoubtedly the most aggressive savory of the evening one could not help but be impressed, the blistered tomatoes and unmistakable okra adding depth to briny burrowing clam on a plate of colors that really popped. Rounding out savories with a tender raviolo beneath widely discrepant ingredients that mostly worked before course eight brought us a rather pedantic chocolate pudding it was with good fortune that two more supplements arrived before meal’s end and although the deep, dark tiramisu was amongst the best non-traditional versions I’ve experienced to date, it was the paper-thin shelled cannoli that really wowed as airy mascarpone melded flavors of fruit and nuts into a flavor that reminisced of panettone without all the heaviness involved.

image151

RECOMMENDED: For first timers I’d suggest the Omakase is the way to go, but were I to return it would be for the family-style a la carte, particularly the desserts.

image162

AVOID: Obviously sporting an appetite larger than most I’d suggest those of a lesser constitution eat lightly preceding the Omakase as many plates are quite heavy.

image189

TIP: For those with the time, money, and patience Orsa & Winston offers a 20+ course Super-Omakase for $195 if given 72-hours notice.

image213

http://orsaandwinston.com/home.html

Orsa & Winston on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Orsa & Winston, Orsa and Winston, Pork, Tasting Menu, Tiramisu, Truffle, Vacation

The Pie Hole, Los Angeles CA

image126

The Pie Hole

image133

“Dark Arts” Iced Americano

image134 image136

Bourbon Pecan

image141image140

Earl Grey

image143 image144

Maple Custard

image130

With artisan pie clearly having ‘a moment’ in trendy neighborhoods of San Francisco, Chicago, Brooklyn, Austin, and more it should come as no surprise that The City of Angels sports Pie Hole, the downtown bakeshop of Becky Grasley where slices both sweet and savory join craft coffee to satisfy the bearded and bespoke, or anyone with $5+ to spare. Obviously not your average mom n’ pop diner slinging canned cherries and shortening, but instead the sort of place where names of farms and suppliers are frequently bantered about, my first visit to Pie Hole was late afternoon and with fresh bakes still oven fresh the only questions became those of cost and capacity as nearly a dozen items sounded tempting, the eventual order entailing three, all sweet, at $6.25 per slice. Stripped and industrial in design with smiling servers ready to make recommendations it was with slow sips of coffee featuring smoky cocoa undertones that my midday snack began and opting for my first slice to be warmed the first bite of bourbon pecan was a stunner – the booze-forward approach eschewing convention and succeeding largely as a result of nearly doubling the number of pecans normally presented to subdue sweetness and instead let toasty notes shine. Moving next to creamy Earl Grey, a Pie Hole signature that sees the custard base steeped in tea, I could not help but think my cream-tea loving grandmother would have strongly approved yet as nuanced and beautiful as it was my well-tuned sweet tooth was most impressed by what followed, a veritable ode to our neighbors up north that eats like pumpkin pie with an eggy basenote that just barely manages to rein the maple in.

image129

RECOMMENDED: Everything I tasted was excellent, but the Maple Custard was truly special.

image131

AVOID: Arriving hungry…though a $60 ten-course pie tasting could be fun (first world problems, I know.)

image128

TIP: Featuring a rotating menu with only a handful of ‘staples,’ those looking for something specific would be well served to call in advance.

http://www.thepieholela.com/

The Pie Hole on Urbanspoon

Posted in California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, The Pie Hole, Vacation

Lazy Ox Canteen, Los Angeles CA

image101

Lazy Ox Canteen

image105 image108

Polenta – roasted mushrooms, creamed greens, yellow curry oil

image109 image111

Pig Ear Chiccharones – pickles, tomatillo salsa, harissa

image113 image117 image119

Croque Madame – ham, gruyere cheese, fried egg

image120 image121

Rice Pudding – cinnamon, caramel, crumble

image122 image123

Butterscotch Budino – salted caramel, whipped cream, cookie

Reportedly having fallen off since its heyday, but still a spot on my map for the few remaining signatures of Josef Centeno’s tenure, Lazy Ox was selected for lunch largely as a matter of convenience…a generally terrible reason to dine anywhere, and no different in this instance. Several years departed from hour-long waits it was just moments to noon when I arrived at the heavily wooded L-shaped dining room and as the only person present both then and 75 minutes later I’d suggest it is fair to say Lazy Ox is hurting for business. Treated to lackluster service that clearly did not know the menu, and later tried to charge me “dinner prices” in a maneuver I’m not so sure wasn’t intentional, my meal began with a small bowl of creamy polenta teaming with rich flavors of the earth and admittedly impressed by every aspect of the dish round two would fare nearly as well, each bite of crackling pork almost entirely greaseless with levity found in bold salsa plus fiery harissa. At this point happy to see the food has remained competent with little knowledge that my meal was about to be ruined by unannounced ballpark-quality mustard slathered on a croque madame, suffice it to say I was not amused by the chef’s reinterpretation nor the fact that I actually had to suggest it be stricken from the bill. Nearly walking out until I recalled why I came in the first place it was with two desserts that my meal concluded and with the oft-photographed rice pudding pasty and flavorless it was only the budino that proved worth the wait, though it’s not as if this cribbed concoction cannot be found elsewhere with a far better experience alongside.

image102

RECOMMENDED: Pig Ears, Polenta

AVOID: Croque Madame, Rice Pudding

image104

TIP: More than once trying to confiscate the menu from me despite my verbal request to hang onto it I almost feel bad assuming the worst of waitstaff trying to upcharge at lunch, but that certainly seemed to be the case. With the heralded ‘specials’ board of past years relegated to a few boring items available only at dinner these days and an empty dining room even during ‘cheaper’ lunch hours one must wonder just how long Lazy Ox can keep limping along until it finally shutters.

http://lazyoxcanteen.com/

Lazy Ox Canteen on Urbanspoon

Posted in California, Dessert, Food, Lazy Ox Canteen, Los Angeles, Pork, Vacation

eggslut, Los Angeles CA

image079

eggslut

image082

g&b coldbrew

image086 image092 image095

Bacon, Egg & Cheese – Hardwood Smoked Bacon, Over Medium Egg, Cheddar Cheese, Chipotle Ketchup in a Warm Portuguese Bun

image088 image089 image090

Slut – Coddled Egg on Potato Puree with Seasoned Crostini

image083

Elevated to foodporn status by bright yellows that contrast against nearly any backdrop, eggs are clearly having ‘a moment,’ the breakfast staple formerly relegated to later day salads and sandwiches now finding its way into appetizers, entrees, and even…well…eggslut, the Alvin Cailan concept that some may say started the trend. Originally a food truck, but truly finding its footing nearly one year ago with countertop service in Grand Central Market, a visit to eggslut is a relatively simple affair and with only six options available at breakfast I opted for two, a bottle of G&B coldbrew plus tip bringing my total to $22 as I sat down to wait with oppressively loud Katy Perry tunes playing approximately ten feet from my face. Impressed by g&b’s robust earthiness without a hint of acidity and amused each time a patron requested a “slut” it would not be long before I received a slut of my own and popping the yolk before giving it a quick stir the amalgam for instagram was first tasted from the spoon and then spread on bread, the results pretty much as expected from quality eggs and a buttery base. Moving on to the less-spendy sandwich that nearly soiled my shirt when the first bite ruptured soft yolk, it was finally here that eggslut really impressed and although surely the eponymous ingredient had something to do with it I’m also confident in saying the supple bacon, sharp cheddar, and smoky ketchup would have been pretty darn good on their own, as would be most things served on that sweet toasted bun.

image084

RECOMMENDED: Bacon, Egg & Cheese

AVOID: …sorry kids, the slut isn’t worth $9.

image073

TIP: Apparently working on new things for the menu in year two the oft-raved biscuits are only available “sometimes,” a term loosely defined by their social media streams from what I was told.

image081

http://www.eggslut.com/

Eggslut on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, California, Coffee, eggslut, Food, Los Angeles, Pork, Vacation

California Donuts, Los Angeles CA

image047

California Donuts

image057 image058 image059

Blueberry Cinnamon Toast Crunch

image060 image062 image063

Matcha Green Tea Croissant Donut

image064

Oreo Panda

image068 image069 image070

The Snickers Bar

image051 image052 image053

Apple Fritter

image054 image055 image056

Buttermilk Bar

image050

Located on 3rd, and open 24/7 with a steady trickle of traffic throughout the day for freshly fried treats, California Donuts has been doing what it does for over 32 years; the evolution of ‘artisan’pastry, ‘foodie’ culture, and instagram suddenly seeing the tiny window with even smaller seating space elevated to cult status for a few audacious options along with a rather comprehensive collection of the classics. Undoubtedly a place one could mistake as just ‘another’ curbside stop in a city with no lack of such things, my 8:30am arrival found a team of at least five working diligently and after a brief wait to scope out what was most fresh I stepped up to the window – the smell of yeast and sugar instead of oil a welcome surprise. At first a bit flummoxed by language barriers, but able to eventually able to procure a half-dozen to the sum of $12.90, I quickly carried my box to a lot next door and surveying the goods my tasting began with the classics; a still-warm fritter unfortunately too oily despite ample apples while the buttermilk bar fared far better with good glaze playing off light sours. Moving next to more ‘visual’ options, neither the Oreo-embedded panda nor the yeasted Blueberry Cinnamon Toast Crunch are going to win any awards for subtlety given the substantial sugar shellacking, yet with each tasting quite good I’d not hesitate to recommend either, that reluctance instead saved for a ‘croissant donut’ that was oily and insipid, though earthen green glaze was an interesting change of pace. Saving the best, or at least most famous, for last as I shared halves (and conversation) with a homeless gentleman who’d approached me as I was taking pictures, suffice it to say that in a world where you often can ‘have too much of a good thing’ this was not one of those cases – the classic candy bar providing a molten core to fluffy dough with glaze and toppings replicating Snickers timeless flavor profile nearly spot-on.

image046

RECOMMENDED: Buttermilk bar, Snickers.

image043

AVOID: Apple Fritter, ‘Croissant Donuts’

image049

TIP: Apparently the site of a grizzly parking-lot murder years back, and still the temporary home base for several unfortunate individuals today, I’d probably not venture into the area alone at night…though I certainly can see appeal of 24/7 Snickers-and-dough after a long night out while the man I encountered was entirely pleasant and thankful for both the conversation and food (he too thought the ‘cronut’ was “nasty,” by the way.)

http://cadonuts.com/

California Donut on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, California, California Donuts, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Vacation

Alcove Cafe & Bakery, Los Angeles CA

image002

Alcove Cafe & Bakery

image007 image016

Almond Croissant

image008 image009

Polenta Raspberry Scone

image010 image011 image017

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

image036 image040 image042

Brioche French Toast – Vanilla, Rum, Crème Fraiche, Berry Reduction, Vermont Maple Syrup

image027 image030

Almond Pear Tart

image018 image019

Red Velvet Cupcake

image024 image025 image026

Carrot Cake Cupcake

image005

Located in Los Feliz and one of those spots that had been on my radar for years, imagine my surprise when the first steps of my early morning run led me right past the patio of Alcove Bakery and Café, my early breakfast plans for Langer’s again derailed by the promise of warm pastries. Open at 6am, with my arrival timed to 7:00 given the duration of my path, it was just minutes before the kitchen opened for full service that I arrived and speaking to a pair of youngsters behind the counter who helped guide me through myriad options a sizeable order was crafted – a some for now, some for later approach the only way to manage a restaurant where no less than three dozen pastries beckoned behind glass. Taking a seat while the kitchen worked on my entrée it was mere moments before the first round arrived and with an almond croissant still hot kicking things off with a crisp break giving way to subtly sweet filling I was immediately impressed, the juxtaposition of polenta and fruit an equally pleasant experience amidst the warm scone. Moving next to chocolate chip bread pudding that was rendered hot by a quick trip to the oven suffice it to say that the 8+oz mini-loaf packed a whole lot of butter, chocolate, and brioche into a small package and with that same brioche utilized to make the plated French Toast I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite, the later already custardy beneath the griddled crisp but all the better with crème fraiche, reduced berries, and pure maple syrup. Taking parts of the pastries to go, along with another trio of treats, there are undoubtedly better places to obtain cupcakes in SoCal than Alcove as the Gluten-Free Vegan Carrot option was a touch too chewy while the Red Velvet’s cloying frosting completely undermined light coca, but finishing on a absolute high note I’d be hard pressed to name a better use of frangipane in recent memory than the butter-crusted tart – nearly a half-Anjou per slice melting into a puffy, almond cloud.

image033

RECOMMENDED: Bread Pudding, French Toast, Pear-Almond Tart.

image032

AVOID: Cupcakes…and going alone as it’d be nice to take a small army in order to sample more of the menu.

image031

TIP: Located in a neighborhood where parking is limited and many signs indicate they will tow you specifically for parking there and walking to Alcove (there is apparently a market for these signs as no less than 3 neighboring properties had them,) those willing to walk a block are advise to check out Rodney. Additionally, with a small kitchen and everything made to order wait times can be excessive even if you are the first to arrive – all the more excuse to grab a pastry, sit back, and enjoy.

image003

http://alcovecafe.com/cafe

Alcove Cafe & Bakery/Big Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Alcove Cafe & Bakery, Alcove Cafe and Bakery, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, California, Croissant, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Los Angeles, Vacation

Huntridge Pharmacy and Soda Fountain, Las Vegas NV

DSC03590

Huntridge Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

DSC03572 DSC03575 DSC03576

The Elvis – Peanut Butter and Bananas, Grilled, with Onion Rings

DSC03577 DSC03578 DSC03582

Bye Bye Love Bananas Foster Pancakes – Sauteed Bananas, Walnuts, Caramel, Whipped Cream, Thrifty Vanilla Ice Cream

DSC03567

Closed on Saturdays in observation of Shabbat, and the sort of place I imagine to have changed little since opening in 1962, it was on a rare Sunday dining expedition that I finally visited Huntridge Soda Fountain – the sizable restaurant tucked inside Huntridge Pharmacy where several families already sat enjoying any numbers of shakes, sandwiches, and diner favorites offered at prices harkening an era long past. Every bit a reminder of a Woolworth’s back home in Ohio, with short-order cooks overseeing a menu of classics frequently tinged in whimsy, it was to a service team of one that I was greeted on entry and with a floor polisher whirring in the background as its driver weaved amidst aisles of toiletries, tablets, and even some toys a two-part order was crafted – the total bill less than $14 even after tax and tip for food that was served not only piping hot with a smile, but also surprisingly delicious despite its simplicity. Admittedly a bit strained in service as my empty beverage languished it was with the $3.95 Elvis Sandwich that my meal began and although buttery Texas Toast surrounding ripe bananas plus ample peanut butter was as tasty as expected the basket of onion rings proved far less foolproof, the flavor of questionably fresh oil rendering the batter entirely off-putting – a $1.50 upcharge eliminated from my bill when I mentioned the issue to its cook. Moving on to something far more decadent it was after only half of my sandwich had been consumed that the $5.95 stack of pancakes arrived and although impressive on their own with soft notes of buttermilk imbuing each bite it can only be said that the addition of bananas sautéed in butter represented a significant upgrade, the drizzle of caramel and mountain of whipped cream atop a generous scoop of ice cream and walnuts pushing the whole thing into dessert territory in the very best of ways.

DSC03566

THREE STARS: Touting a menu far more interesting than several other local diners with prices that rival many chains for ‘bargain’ status Huntridge Pharmacy & Soda Fountain is a truly authentic experience in a city that many bemoan for being entirely too fake, the food far better than you’d expect given both the price and the locale. Admittedly a bit lackluster in service given the skeleton staff, hand-written bills, and orders that occasionally back up when cooks are asked to prepare kosher options suffice it to say that the Soda Fountain is one of those spots everyone should visit at least once, and one that only stands to gain if and when the Huntridge Theater renovation finally takes place.

DSC03569

RECOMMENDED: Bye Bye Love Bananas Foster Pancakes.

DSC03585

AVOID: Onion Rings, though hand breaded while I watched, suffered from flavors of old oil – a comment I heard the table next to me make about the French Fries, as well.

DSC03586

TIP: Apparently well known for their Whoppers shake and serving nearly a dozen varieties of Thrifty Ice Cream those visiting early are encouraged to inquire about seasonal flavors, none available during my visit as the team had just returned from vacation to find one of the freezers broken and thus limiting them to only a few traditional flavors.

DSC03583DSC03584

http://www.huntridgepharmacy.com/

Huntridge Pharmacy on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Huntridge Pharmacy, Huntridge Pharmacy & Soda Fountain, Huntridge Pharmacy and Soda Fountain, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes

Sweets Raku [3,] Las Vegas NV

IMG_6185

Sweets Raku

DSC03528DSC03532

Ume Breeze – Plum Sake with Champagne

DSC03541 DSC03542 DSC03544

White Sturgeon Caviar – Traditional Condiments, Choux

DSC03538 DSC03540DSC03537

Foie Gras – Croissant Batons, Honeycomb, Fruit Puree, Caramelized Nuts, Balsamic

DSC03545DSC03546

Lobster Tomato Soup

DSC03547 DSC03548

Potato Salad with rice wine vinaigrette

DSC03549 DSC03552

Iberico bacon and Potato Croissant Sandwich

DSC03555 DSC03556

Mango Sorbet, Mint Jelly

DSC03557 DSC03559 DSC03560

Stella – Strawberry Tiramisu

DSC03562 DSC03563 DSC03564

Vanilla and Black Currant Cream Puff with passion fruit and raspberry marshmallows

DSC03530

Asked by a man who many would say has dined better than anyone they know to join him for brunch during a one day stay in Las Vegas it was my pleasure to suggest Sweets Raku on Sunday afternoon, my third visit overall but the first time during a lunch service that sees the predominantly dessert menu expanded by a duo of sandwiches plus soup, salad, and the occasional quiche. Small, spotless, but now rendered less sterile by light Japanese music playing overhead it was just prior to noon that we arrived, and seated on the corner as soon as the restaurant unlocked the doors it would not be long before an order was crafted – a six-course meal plus supplements rolling out over the course of the next hundred minutes at a slow, but deliberate pace. Beginning first with cocktails, the light sake and bubbles pairing nicely to a both creamy foie gras with laminated pastry batons and caviar that could have used a little more crème fraiche to balance the brine, it was largely conversation about food that passed the time between courses and with a shooter of soup and crisp salad balancing light vinaigrette with creamy potatoes both pleasant enough, our ‘main courses’ each impressed – for him the salmon and ikura while I opted for fatty bacon crafted of iberico belly matched to crisp potatoes inside of a crispy, hot croissant. Transitioning from savory to sweet with mango sorbet dressed in mint jelly that unfortunately got lost in the sweetness it was onward to better things that the meal progressed and while my friend enjoyed the Mont Blanc I opted for the seasonal Stella, a star of strawberries served over an almond-soaked financier with cream melding the two into a designer ‘strawberry shortcake’ with texture and nuance to spare. Wrapping up the afternoon in puffs of choux offered with options for both cream and jam it was with little hesitation that both of us selected vanilla and black currant, the shell giving way in a crisp break to just a touch of pressure and melting on the tongue leaving me to wish they offered profiteroles by the plate.

DSC03531

FOUR AND A HALF STARS: A bit underwhelmed by the caviar presentation but again impressed by everything else, including a croissant and cream puffs that made me think Raku should consider a bakery style counter as its next conquest, I still contest that Sweets Raku should be a destination for everyone who loves pastry and anyone looking to impress an out of town guest – a genuinely un-Vegas experience mere miles from the strip where passion and artistry matter much more than publicist noise or the name on the door.

RECOMMENDED: Definitely the dessert prix-fixe, none of the main courses or mignardises I’ve had yet less than impressive.

DSC03554

AVOID: Caviar is pricy at $30 for a small tin and although high quality, the accoutrements were a bit skimpy – a bit more crème fraiche and more robust sour notes would have been welcomed.

TIP: Empty when we arrived at noon but featuring a full bar by 1:00pm while a few table seats remained it is advised to arrive early as some items reportedly do sell out, the brunch running from noon to 5:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays while nighttime hours change on occasion – updates frequently offered on both their social media feeds and recently rennovated website.

DSC03565

https://www.facebook.com/sweetsraku

Sweets Raku on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Pork, Sweets Raku, Tiramisu

Le Cirque [2,] Las Vegas NV

DSC03420

Le Cirque

DSC03423 DSC03425

Le Framboise – Raspberry Puree, Grand Cuvee Champagne

DSC03429 DSC03431

Golden Osetra Caviar – Salmon Rillette, Vodka Crème Fraiche, Chives

DSC03444 DSC03448

Fall Salad – Artichoke, Avocado, Jamon Iberco, White Truffle, Foie Gras Snow

DSC03450 DSC03437DSC03440

Bacon Cheddar, Rosemary, Sourdough, Pretzel, White Chocolate Walnut, Salted Butter

DSC03453DSC03457DSC03454

Potato Gnocchi – White Truffle, White Truffle Cream

DSC03458 DSC03459

Mint – Rock Sugar, Club Soda, Cucumber

DSC03466DSC03465

Scallop – Potato and Apple “risotto,” White Truffles, Potato Chip, Lobster Puree, White Chocolate Sauce

DSC03476 DSC03477

Rabbit – Saddle wrapped in prosciutto, offal ravioli, confit loin, Riesling sauce, crispy spatzle

DSC03478 DSC03487DSC03489DSC03488DSC03491DSC03479

Canard a L’Orange – Caramelized Endive, Fava Bean Puree, Maitake Mushroom, Foie Gras, Duck Confit, Potato Gnocchi Pot-Au-Feu

DSC03498 DSC03500

Tomme de Chevre, Epoisses, Roquefort – Accoutrements

DSC03511

Delice de Framboise – Raspberry Milk Shake, Light Mascarpone Crème, Crunch of Feuilletine, Champagne Foam

DSC03502 DSC03506DSC03515

Petite Boule de Chocolat – Chocolate Ball, Praline Mousse, White Chocolate Ice Cream, Hazelnut Caramel Crunch, Chocolate Sauce

DSC03513

Strawberry Souffle – Strawberry Cream, Strawberry Sorbet

DSC03510

Mignardises

DSC03516

Double Espresso

DSC03428

Having last visited Le Cirque as an inexperienced intern on vacation in Las Vegas it was finally the invite of a friend that brought me back to The Bellagio’s hidden gem and bellied up to the bar with nearly the same service team in place that wowed me six years prior I can only lament the mediocre meals I’ve eaten elsewhere in between…and promise that my next visit will be far less delayed. Admittedly unable to fairly assess the ‘experience’ under the circumstances in which I dined – carte blanche, truffe blanche, vin blanche, gratuit – but instead opting to focus on the skills of 28 year old chef Wilfred Bergerhausen and what he placed on our plates it was with a glass of the restaurant’s signature cocktail of raspberry puree and brut bubbles that the evening began and although perhaps an ‘expected’ pairing I’d be hard pressed to name a better amuse than the briny eggs over creamy salmon that chives that arrived next, each of four bites slowly savored from the only utensil fit for such a job. Asking for a mix of the new chef’s plates to be served alongside longstanding classics both the salad and pasta courses showed Le Cirque’s dedication to quality of sourcing and although the modernist-kiss of shaved torchon atop a texturally compelling salad proved a brilliant carrier for the early season truffles it was the follow-up plate that quickly stole the show – a mountain of Tuber magnatum the only thing holding down dumplings so light that they threatened to float off the plate. At this point abandoning any attempt to stay my hand from further trips to a bread plate that rivals the city’s best it was a tender scallop over fall-fruit ‘risotto’ that arrived and liberally ladled with white chocolate sauce the flavors popped, even the scallop-skeptic in the group relishing the experience as I mopped the terrine clean with warm white chocolate and walnut bread. Transitioning here to heartier flavors it was to a stack of rabbit saddle, confit, and offal ravioli that we were treated and with a finishing touch of crispy spatzle the longtime classic was reborn, the grand finale of duck a l’orange equally timeless with novel twists finding it stuffed in lavender and rosemary while a small bowl of duck consommé featured slowly melting slices of foie gras, the semi-sweet red served at its side a brilliant pairing with light acid and smoke lingering on the end. Bridging savory to sweet with a trio of aged cheeses, more bread, and fruit puree I’d have gladly eaten by the spoon it was in a trio of desserts and a tower of mignardise that the meal ended and although both the chocolate sphere and champagne parfait were lovely, neither could hold a candle to the soufflé – a classic soon to be remastered under the talents of a new pastry chef by month’s end, and a reason in and of itself to warrant an expedited return.

DSC03426

UNABLE TO RATE: Despite several offers to pay the bill we were refused at all turns but lumping together a pile of cash to at least compensate the remarkable service I’m confident to say that at this very moment Le Cirque’s kitchen is executing on the level of most Michelin 2* restaurants I’ve been to in Europe or The United States, a statement I reserve for less than a handful of restaurants in Las Vegas and one that becomes even more impressive when you look at the price point – the tasting menu under $150 with service from a team that has largely been in place since the restaurant opened its doors 16 years ago.

DSC03443

RECOMMENDED: Canard a l’orange, rabbit, soufflé, gnocchi.

DSC03451

AVOID: Unless you possess substantial eating prowess or have far more willpower than I, shoo the bread man away immediately without even taking a taste…otherwise be prepared to find yourself asking for seconds…and thirds…maybe fourths.

DSC03452

TIP: Odd as it may seem, sitting at the bar was one of the most enjoyable aspects of a meal that lacked in no way for great moments – the small size allowing for all sorts of chat with the bartender as well as extensive interaction with other patrons, the majority well-cultured epicures with extensive travel resumes and stories of great meals around the world to be shared.

http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/le-cirque.aspx

Le Cirque on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Gnocchi, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Le Cirque, Nevada, Pork, Souffle, Tasting Menu, Truffle

Eis Cream, Las Vegas NV

image086

Eis Cream

image096

Samples – ube, macapuno, peach cobbler, burgundy cherry, pralines and caramel, coffee and toffee

image103 image101

Warm Double Chocolate Brownie

image100 image098

Ube on Chocolate Chip and Macadamia Nut Sandwich

image089

Owned and operated by Alexis Gonzaga, a charming young lady who was (wo)manning the small shop solo when I arrived shortly after the 2:00pm opening on Saturday, Eis Cream is not exactly the artisan experience some might expect, but with cutesy décor including Hello Kitty merchandise paired with good sourcing and a few housemade items the overall effect is quite nice. Small in size but sizable in selection, with ice creams imported from Treat in No.Cal matched to locally baked goods from Al’s, Valerio’s, and more it was with pleasant conversation about flavor profiles and why specific vendors were chosen that I chatted with Ms. Gonzaga during the course of my visit and sampling several ice creams with results ranging from bold (burgundy cherry, ube) to overly icy and sweet (peach cobbler, macapuno) I eventually opted to invest in the ube alongside the only three items made in house – a duo of cookies and a chocolate brownie, each served hot from the tray. Beginning first with the ube, apparently oft mistaken for taro by guests, I was immediately taken by the starchy potato textures admixing with cream plus subtle sweetness and pairing this with cookies and crushed peanuts the ice cream sandwich shined, my favorite bites coming at the end as the melted ice cream melded with butter and macadamia nuts with a decidedly tropical tilt. Moving onward to an option without ice cream, I could not help but order one of the restaurant’s brownies when I saw the pan procured fresh from the oven and with dark chips strewn amidst a semi-sweet base the result was decidedly decadent, the sort of thing that would have gone excellent with milk…or as the base of a sundae, the pralines and coffee a seemingly brilliant pairing though I imagine vanilla would work quite nicely as well.

image097

THREE STARS: Not quite as impressive as Sweet Addictions if only due to overall lack of house made cookie options I can definitely see Eis Cream improving with time and customer feedback provided the small store can generate enough foot traffic and staying power given its tucked away location on the backside of a strip mall on South Eastern. Potentially a bit overpriced given the quality of the goods, the upcharge on Al’s already sub-par Kronuts particularly perplexing, it is a good option for those in the neighborhood or those seeking something different – the hand packed half-gallons potentially a tempting proposition for those picking up a cake from nearby Freed’s.

image093

RECOMMENDED: Ube Ice Cream, Brownie

image095

AVOID: Fruit flavored ice creams, Al’s Kronuts

image094

TIP: With hours recently changed and the store closed on Mondays customers would be well advised to call in advance to make sure the shop is open – the current listing indicating 2p-8p on Tuesday and Wednesday with Thursday hours 2p-10p. Yelp users be sure to check in for 10% off.

image087

http://www.eiscreamcafe.com/

Eis Cream Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Eis Cream, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada

Rincon de Buenos Aires, Las Vegas NV

image033

Rincon de Buenos Aires

image041 image042

Toasted Bread with Chimichurri

image051 image055 image058

Ham and Cheese Empanada, Corn Empanada, Chicken Empanada

image047 image048 image049

Provoletta – Grilled Imported Provolone, Oregano, Olive Oil, Chili Oil

image061 image063 image064

Parrillada Argentina – Short Ribs, Skirt Steak, Sweetbreads, Sausage, Blood Sausage

image074 image076 image077

Flan Con Dulce de Leche

image070 image072 image082

Alfajor Cookie

image067 image069 image081

Milhojas – Puff Pastry, Condensed Milk, Cardamom

image078 image079 image080

Pasta Frola – Quince Pie

image050

Located in the same Spring Mountain plaza as Cathay House and featuring signage indicating both their Argentinean roots and Italian influences, Rincon de Buenos Aires is the sort of spot that one could easily overlook in an area so heavy in Asian influence, but with strong endorsement from an out-of-town friend and another from Chowhound I finally decided to visit the sizeable space on Saturday with results more than exceeding modest expectations. Undoubtedly a spot where ‘regulars’ are expected while newcomers are welcomed with open arms it was just after 11am when my friend and I entered the Argentinean barbeque doubling as bakery, deli, as well as gourmet market and quickly seated beneath an LCD television displaying futbol while the rest of Las Vegas buzzed about the American collegiate variety it was as though we’d instantly been transported many miles away, our smiling server just efficient enough in English to guide our hand to a baker’s dozen of options served alongside toasty bread and herbal chimichurri that eschewed heat in favor of earthy notes and smoothness that complimented everything on which it was poured. Beginning first with a trio of empanadas that featured flaky puff pastry around intensely spiced chicken, cheddar studded in pork, and shucked corn with sweetness tempered by onions and cream one would be hard pressed to choose a winner amongst the group and turning next to the Italian Provoletta a similar theme emerged, the texture intensely creamy while diverse aromatics and just a hint of spice tickled the palate with each balanced bite. Unable to ignore the tabletop barbeque, presented still sizzling with pre-set options or choices a la carte, it was after perhaps thirty minutes that our enormous entrée arrived and featuring more than enough for a family of four to share we each sampled widely, the blood sausage particularly noteworthy for myself with a spice profile and texture on par with artisan sausages I’ve paid double for elsewhere while the tender sweetbreads were also beyond reproach. Transitioning to dessert I was fortunate to be dining with a friend who was more than willing to take the overindulgent approach and although I’m rather certain I consumed the majority of what was ordered there is no doubt that we were both invariably impressed by everything that arrived – the milky flan smooth yet rich while both the Milhojas and Alfajor presented a more restrained sweetness and textural juxtapositions of cream amidst crunch, a slice of quince pie rounding out the quartet with the fruit’s intense sweetness finding its foil in a buttery golden crust.

image084

FOUR STARS: Every bit as good as the rumors, and the very definition of ‘hidden in plain sight,’ Rincon de Buenos Aires is the sort of place anyone looking for something ‘new’ or ‘different’ should investigate, the prices trending a bit higher than much of Spring Mountain but quality of product, preparation, and service far outperforming most of them as well. To the best of my knowledge the only Argentine barbeque in Las Vegas and one of the few places where blood sausage and sweetbreads can be bought by the pound even vegetarians will be safe here as the restaurant offers a number of unique pastas, pizzas, and produce driven options…not to mention prepackaged goods, ready-to-bake empanadas, and desserts that are well worth the effort even if you decide to take them home for later and skip the sizzling meats.

image073

RECOMMENDED: Blood Sausage, Sweetbreads, Corn Empanada, Milhojas, Pasta Frola.

image083

AVOID: Utilizing the tableside grill that allowed for additional cooking after arrival the short ribs were unfortunately cut a bit too thin to handle the heat, the results a bit dry and chewy compared to the fattier meats which all presented moist and nearly melting to the tongue.

image036

TIP: Filling to 2/3 capacity around 12:00pm wait times from the small kitchen were being quoted at an hour to a table of six that had just sat down when we exited at 12:30pm, so those planning on a ‘quick meal’ may wish to plan accordingly and order in advance – both phone and internet options apparently offered as I saw one young man enter, pay, and exit with a sizeable bag of barbeque wrapped in foil.

image043

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

image035

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rincon-De-Buenos-Aires/

Rincon de Buenos Aires on Urbanspoon

Posted in Barbeque, Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Rincon de Buenos Aires, Sweetbreads

Egg Works Summerlin, Las Vegas NV

image001

Egg Works Summerlin

image010 image014

2 Buttermilk Biscuits

image020image021image030

Ham, Egg, and Cheese Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Jam and hash browns

image026image029image032

Candied Walnut Buttermilk Pancakes (seasonal special)

image018

With household chores needing attention it was largely a matter of location combined with a buy-one-get-one coupon that led me to Summerlin’s relatively new Eggworks on Saturday, and having visited sister restaurant “Egg & I” nearly a year ago I’m happy to say that its fifth spin-off replicates the formula well, a very competent breakfast served amidst friendly confines fit for any age. Obviously not the sort of place looking to reinvent the wheel, but rather a locals-only kind of spot where nearly all the patrons present during my early morning meal were ‘regulars,’ it was with nothing but smiles that I was greeted at the hostess podium at 6:45 and offered a seat at the kitchen-side bar or a table I opted for the later, a small two-top amidst spacious confines already loaded with condiments, menus, and utensils as College Gameday played on televisions all around. Never shy to over-order, even as my waitress informed me that two entrees was “a lot,” it was mere moments after seating that I made my selections and starting with two doughy, $3.49 biscuits finding slight salvation in butter plus honey I quickly realized I should have again ordered the signature banana bread, though things would soon improve, my BOGO coupon yielding a duo of plates nearly overwhelming my small table. Beginning first with another item dubbed ‘signature,’ the stuffed French Toast is offered with an option for bacon, sausage, or ham and doing my best to recreate the Monte Cristo the results were admirable – the fluffy eggs loaded with cheddar and chopped pork beneath slices of vanilla scented, golden bread ready to be gilded with syrup or jam. Moving next to an item from the seasonal menu, a $9.75 three-stack of pancakes was next in line and topping the fluffy discs with pure-maple syrup brought from home plus a few pats of butter I’ll be honest when I say these could just be the best buttermilk flapjacks in town, each bite surprisingly light with ample buttermilk tones punctuated by pockets of melting brown sugar and rich caramel with toasty walnuts through and through.

image002

THREE STARS: Far larger and brighter than the original Egg & I location with similar smiling service and a 6am opening every day of the week Egg Works Summerlin is a great addition to the neighborhood and with coupons frequently offered in the local mailers serves as a great place for families to enjoy a good breakfast without breaking the bank or succumbing to big chains like Denny’s or IHOP. Certainly not a ‘destination,’ but a great spot for a leisurely morning while reading the paper, watching gameday, or just sitting on the dog-friendly patio I only wish they advertised specials more prominently, the only indication of those lovely pancakes found on a laminated menu left at the table.

image015

RECOMMENDED: Candied Walnut Pancakes, and (from previous visit) Banana Nut Muffin.

image016

AVOID: Biscuits.

image003

TIP: Unlike Cracked Egg, who limits their coupons to weekdays only, Egg Works offers their deals every day of the week. Pay attention to the mailers, as well, since certain ones offer buy-one-get-one on entrees while others are only buy-one and get the other half-off.

image008

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.theeggworks.com/

Egg Works on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Egg Works, Egg Works Summerlin, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork

Sweet Addiction, Cookies & Ice Cream, Las Vegas NV

DSC03303

Sweet Addiction, Cookies & Ice Cream

DSC03314

Samples = Chocolate Malted Crunch, Mocha Almond Fudge, Medieval Madness, Birthday Cake, Circus Animal Cracker, Pumpkin, Butter Pecan, Pecan Praline

DSC03312  DSC03315

Snickerdoodle – Circus Animal Cracker – Oatmeal Butterscotch

DSC03309 DSC03310

Chocolate Chip – Pecan Praline – Brownie Cookie

DSC03316

Located on Fort Apache with a second location further Southeast, Sweet Addiction had long been on my list of places to visit and with dessert at Hakkasan not quite enough I finally decided to stop by, the simple concept of fresh-baked cookies and Thrifty ice cream proving an entirely enjoyable pairing of America’s two favorite treats. Small in size with white tile set against pastel paints as top-40 played overhead it was just after 8:30pm that I entered the store’s cozy confines and with a few families in line at the counter I took my time to peruse the options, my order coming only after I’d sampled several spoonfuls of “cult favorite” signatures – the Chocolate Malted Crunch and Medieval Madness particularly impressive with the later a spot-on match for a 3 Musketeers candy bar while the former harkened Whoppers in taste and texture, both. Generally fancying a vanilla base to chocolate, particularly when pairing with accoutrements, it was with the mash-up of pink-frosting and Iced Animal Crackers between a warm Snickerdoodle and seasonal Oatmeal butterscotch that my tasting began and with pronounced sweetness found at each turn one couldn’t help but feel like a child at heart, the scoop of subtly salted Pecan Praline ice cream a far more nuanced ‘adult’ flavor that proved a perfect counterpoint to a dense chocolate brownie while pairing marvelously to the buttery notes of a textbook chocolate chip cookie, the edges just crisp while the interior remained chewy and soft.

DSC03306

FOUR STARS: Perhaps not as ‘artisan,’ yet far less spendy than the ice cream sandwiches at Monte Carlo’s BLVD Creamery or Sprinkles at The Linq, Sweet Addiction is the sort of place both ‘foodies’ and families can enjoy without breaking the bank, each cookie ringing in at under $1 with discounts on larger orders available as items are baked fresh to replenish supplies throughout the day.

DSC03305

RECOMMENDED: Everything I ordered was quite good and the service was friendly, efficient, and eager to offer samples – go in with an open mind, taste a lot, and order with confidence.

AVOID: N/A.

DSC03304

TIP: Offering 50cents off each cookie sandwich with Yelp, Foursquare, or Facebook Check-In while coupons at the register offer discounts on individual scoops the average family of four can enjoy Sweet Addictions for less than $15 – an absolute bargain compared to strip based options and all the better for ease of parking and number of options available, even if many were not *quite* as unique, ‘organic,’ or Instagram-ready.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://sweetaddictionlv.com/

Sweet Addiction Cookies & Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Posted in Cookies & Ice Cream, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Sweet Addiction, Sweet Addiction Cookies & Ice Cream

Hakkasan, Las Vegas NV

DSC03249

Hakkasan

DSC03256 DSC03257

Crab meat and sweet corn supreme soup

DSC03262 DSC03264

Peking duck with Tsar Nicoulai reserve caviar, hoisin

DSC03261 DSC03260

Dim sum platter – har gau, scallop shumai, perch dumpling, black pepper and pumpkin duck dumpling

DSC03272 DSC03273

Braised whole seabass and egg tofu in claypot

DSC03279 DSC03268

Fried rice with diced abalone

DSC03276 DSC03278

Crispy prawn with dried chili and cashew nut

DSC03284 DSC03286

Spicy Szechuan rib-eye beef with enoki mushrooms

DSC03281 DSC03282

Roasted crispy chicken with wild mushroom in oyster sauce

DSC03290 DSC03291

Black sesame and chocolate dumplings with ginger tea and finger lime

DSC03296 DSC03301

Yuzu Macaron with Chocolate Cream

DSC03255

With Michelin stars decorating locations in New York as well as London, and a similar menu of modernized Cantonese cuisine from Chef Ho Chee Boon offered here in Las Vegas, it was only a matter of time before I visited Hakkasan at The MGM and with the 2014 “Golden Week” menu proposing an opportunity to experience a number of plates without investing in a $250+ Peking Duck or $35 fried rice it was with a friend that I finally sat down to dine amidst the darkened labyrinth beneath America’s most lucrative club. Grand in size, with soaring ceilings and dark woods juxtaposing white leather and signature styling, a meal at Hakkasan begins with check-in at an outer atrium and soon to be led between several dividers that serve to break the room into a series of alcoves it was expectedly the wine and cocktail list that arrived first, the upsale on from the start and continuing as the a la carte menu was presented with no mention of Golden Week to be found. Pleasant and competent in service, despite obviously ignoring the notes in my reservation requesting the special menu and a seat with good light, it was with a single a la carte option that our meal began and with the intricate broth surprisingly vegetal to balance the sweetness of fresh crab I only wish we’d have had more time to enjoy it – the first course of dim sum and duck arriving hot on its heels with no more than two bites enjoyed. Opting to set aside soup in order to focus on the progression of tastes it was with a sampling of the aforementioned duck that Golden Week began and essentially using the briny eggs to offset the fatty bird’s sapor each bite was pure indulgence, the skin so thin it seemed razor cut and the attention to detail soon found to be duplicated in a steamer basket of dumplings from which both the spicy duck and creamy scallop shined. Moving quickly to round two as I again attempted to enjoy the now-cool soup it was here that a trio of plates was presented and with promises that the ‘rest’ was soon to come I finally explained that the kitchen needed to slow down, a request thankfully met by allowing us to focus on what was present – the aromatic clay pot and fried rice loaded with tender abalone amongst the very best plates of the meal while the spicy shrimp in an admixture of peppers and nuts was the sort of thing I knew I’d regret later as beads of sweat burst forth from my brow. At this point only fifty minutes into the meal it was thankfully after a short break that round three arrived and with both dishes using mushrooms as a base to impeccable proteins it was something of a surprise that the tender beef proved to be the best dish of the meal, a melting mouthfeel amidst innumerable spices and light acid that fully engaged the palate without coming off as ‘hot’ in the least. Rounding out the evening it was in a bowl of six glutinous rice dumplings that we indulged and with melted dark chocolate bursting forth to mix with cells of finger lime and a broth of light ginger one could not help but swoon, a similar citrus and cocoa experience offered in a duo of golden macarons presented in a take-home box at the meal’s end.

DSC03251

THREE AND A HALF STARS: Decidedly expensive for a meal that lasted just ninety minutes I remain perplexed to this moment as to why the kitchen felt the need to send plates in clusters at such a rapid rate but with that issue aside I’m happy to say that both ingredients and preparation were exquisite, the opportunity to experience the duck without investing in a whole-prep particularly welcomed considering the sizable scoops of caviar while every other plate was delicious and surprisingly well portioned considering the tasting menu format.

DSC03280  DSC03288

RECOMMENDED: Braised whole seabass and egg tofu in claypot, Fried rice with diced abalone, Spicy Szechuan rib-eye beef with enoki mushrooms.

DSC03266

AVOID: The Dim Sum was good but certainly not justifying the normal menu price of $24. Similarly, while admittedly decadent and delicious, all but the most serious caviar lover would be foolish to spend nearly $300 on the whole Peking Duck – an equally delicious version offered at 1/3 the price at both Blossom or all-you-care-to-eat on the Jasmine Sunday brunch.

DSC03267

TIP: With tasting menus and prix-fixe options frequently offered with several options in each course those looking to experience Hakkasan at its best are advised to bring a few friends, each person opting for something different and thus allowing ample sampling of portions that trend far larger than one would expect on The Strip.

DSC03292

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://hakkasan.com/locations/hakkasan-las-vegas/

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon

 

Posted in Crab, Dessert, Food, Hakkasan, Las Vegas, Macaroon, Nevada, Tasting Menu