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IN L.A.? by John Mariani
by John Mariani
THE WINE CELLAR: Whispering
Pink Floyd, Brad and Angelina Give Provence Rosés Year-Round
Glamor by John Mariani
New in L.A.?
L.A. Back Away from Culinary Dazzle
by John Mariani
into the 1990s Los Angeles
was the edgiest of America’s restaurant cities. But more recently
novelty and culinary dazzle seem to have given way to safer, more
traditional cuisine. Wolfgang Puck hasn’t opened anything interesting
in L.A. since CUT two years ago, instead branching out to Indianapolis
(PUCK’S), D.C. (The Source), and San Diego (Jai). The 2008 Michelin
Guide didn’t award a single L.A. restaurant a three-star rating.
new edition comes out this month.
Los Angelenos still hunger to catch
celebrities dining out, so the Latino steakhouse Beso opened by
"Desperate Housewives" actress Eva Longoria Parker and star chef Todd
has been one of the year’s hottest restaurants. Now, Gordon
Ramsay has announced he and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham will
open a restaurant together featuring English comfort food.
Ramsay already debuted his own
restaurant last May in the London West Hollywood Hotel (though he
didn’t bother to attend the opening). Recently I had a very good meal
there, in a room sparse with guests. Gordon Ramsay at the London West Hollywood
(1020 N. San
Vicente Boulevard; 310-358-7788) is a sleek, large two-room
restaurant and bar that, like its New York counterpart, is as mirrored
and gleaming as a Hollywood hair salon.
Chef de Cuisine Andy Cook, who’s worked in
Ramsay kitchens in London and Tokyo, plays it safe with his master’s
menu, keeping the food simple, with subtle flavors that provide the
local dining scene with more refinement than it’s seen in a while.
Plump, sweet sea scallops come with a
cauliflower puree and the underpinning of a sherry vinegar reduction.
Roasted king prawns are packed into sheer ravioli enhanced by calypso
beans and a seafood cassoulet. There is a lot to like about the sheer
quality of roasted sirloin of Sonoma lamb, which Cook serves with a
confit of the shoulder meat, creamed potatoes, and a classic lamb jus
with pearl onions.
Desserts share the same delicacy of
intentions, as in the Valrhona chocolate fondant with rich brown butter
caramel and vanilla ice cream, and delightfully light pineapple
soufflé with toasted coconut and a jolt of Thai curry ice cream.
The winelist is good, not great, leaning more
towards the old World than the New, and, as in New York, most bottlings
are marked up very high, while the cost of food is actually quite
price, lunch at $28 and $35; Dinner
appetizers $14, main courses $18-$22; Fixed price dinner, 7-course
tasting menu $85. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
Giraud, while not an international
celeb chef like Puck or Ramsay, has always enjoyed a high local
rep for the studiously French cuisine he has served over his years in
Los Angeles, first at Lavande in Santa Monica, then at West Hollywood’s
Bastide (now on its fourth chef). In the past, Giraud worked for
others; now, with restaurateur-club partners Mike Garrett and Tommy
Stoilkovich, he has his own place—Anisette (225 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica;
310-395-3200)—set in the vast former bank
space of the Historic Clocktower Building in Santa Monica.
Every ornamental attempt has been made
to incorporate the look of a Parisian brasserie, from the white tiles
and dark shelves of wine bottles to the pressed tin ceiling and long
zinc bar. Seating is cramped, requiring waiters to pull out the table
to sit and extract guests.
Anisette is, however, darker than well-lighted
brasseries like Bofinger and La Coupole in Paris, and, instead of the
jolly gregariousness of those institutions, Anisette rings with the
cacophonous, high-pitched, nasal screeches of parties greeting and
air-kissing each other as waiters cock their ears to be heard at tables.
The menu is straight-down-the-line brasserie
fare, and overall, from the iced shellfish platters and various
charcuterie, the kitchen does a commendable, if undistinguished job.
There are nightly specials, like duck à
l’orange ($26) on Wednesday and blanquette de veau ($24) on
while the daily menu is a screed of brasserie classics like beef
Provençal daube ($26), daurade
royale ($75 for two), and rack of lamb
($60 for two). Onion soup ($13) was gratifyingly gooey with
cheese though not hot enough; indeed, I found many dishes seemed rushed
out of an overworked kitchen, sometimes tepid, sometimes overcooked.
Sweetbreads ($16) had little flavor or seasoning at all. The Steak
Frites ($22) lacked flavor, the French fries—which are a true
test of a
French kitchen--were far from crisp.
Desserts (all $8) were true to form only, like the
slightly gummy chocolate mousse and profiteroles with dried-out puff
pastry. The winelist is unexceptional, despite a few unfamiliar vins du
pays, and the wines by the carafe ($13-$16) wholly unsatisfying.
Some of Anisette’s flaws seem due to its
being overwhelmed by the crush of customers avid to claim a table here.
What I’d really like to see is more of Giraud’s exuberant
personality in the food. Getting it all to come out right is fine but
getting it to come out with distinction if better.
$13 to $19.50; main courses, $18 to $26; plats du
jour, $22 to $30. Some dishes for two more expensive.
Open for breakfast.
never seen so many car dealerships in my life until I drove down Brand
Boulevard in Glendale, which is not sufficient reason to drive out
there unless you want a deal on a new Lexus. But in a
year when it was hard not to stifle a yawn over the new restaurants in
L.A., Palate Food + Wine (933 South Brand Boulevard; 818-662-9463)
is, if you want to taste superb food at prices hard to believe can be
so reasonable in this day and age.
It’s not a wonder of design—a fairly simple room, one a
1928 warehouse, with a flattering pink glow, a friendly bar,
black-and-white tile floors, an open kitchen and big windows from which
you can see hundreds of unsold SUVs. In the rear is a big family-style
table and behind that a great communal room where you can feast on
cheeses and wines in a sleek industrial-style wine cellar.
But from the greeting and seating to the
service and winelist, Palate hits every point of hospitality.
Chef Octavio Bercera, formerly with the Patina Group restaurants, and
chef-partner Gary Menes starts you off with Mason jars of salmon
rilletes and potted Berkshire pork, then tempts you with crawfish with
chile butter; and yellowtail poached in olive oil with olive tapenade
and artichoke béchamel; pork belly with farro grain and
and a fabulous wagyu rib-eye with sweet onions, charred carrots, and
oxtail sauce—this last, the most expensive thing on the menu—at
$19. The winelist, overseen by Steve Goldun, is first rate in
every category and priced to sell.
Whatever you spent on gas to get to Glendale
you’ll save on the food and wines here and go home very happy. And the
manager here seems to be an exact clone of The Great Lebowsky—“The Dude!”
$3-$35, entrees $11-$19.
by John Mariani
72 Madison Avenue (btw 27th/28th)
is in one those odd parts of Manhattan that is usually not kind to
restaurants, despite being in quite a central location in
Then again, there haven't been many attempts aside from the wonderful
Country that have the decorous appeal and snazzy glamor Olana does, and
the midweek night I visited the place was doing very good business.
Named after the fantastical estate of Hudson
River School painter Frederic Church (a State Historic Site), Olana's
decor was inspired by the grandeur of the Hudson Valley mansions and
the richness of their furnishings and colors. Managing
William and Patrick Resk (below)
gave the rooms 17-foot ceilings, roomy
banquettes, leather paneled and mirrored walls, and mahogany blinds.
Chairs are wrapped in mohair, others in velvet, and good linens drape
the well-lighted tables. Hudson Valley artwork is displayed throughout.
Red dominates in the warm, sumptuous way it should.
Chef/owner Albert Di Meglio has a strong
résumé, with experience at Le Cirque and Osteria del
Circo. His food
has gusto and a very generous personality that comes through in the
largess of every dish. On the night I visited, however, several
dishes came out tepid, not hot, which is something the kitchen has to
pay closer attention to.
We began with roasted octopus with red quinoa
and a garlic-rich rouille vinaigrette--quite
delicious--and a fine
heirloom tomato salad--perhaps the last good ones of the season,
crispy parmesan chops, a lacing of pesto, and a chardonnay vinaigrette.
It was a perfectly composed dish whose ingredients worked in luscious
So often sweetbreads, which are pretty
bland to start with, stay that way in preparations that muddy the
situation. DiMeglio's starter of sweetbreads and langoustine lets the
two ingredients subtly play off each other, with the addition of a
peppery purslaine, and a green apple-parsley
sauce, all adding numerous complementary flavors. We tried a hearty
trio of pastas on one dish ($20) as a main course--tacconi, tomato
risotto, and raviolini--all
very good. Monkfish osso buco,
meaty, came with a parsnip puree, and braised endive that gave it a
bitter edge to go with the saline flavor of crisp lardons and an herb
halibut with a ragoût of eggplant, lime beans,
roasted tomato, and a clam-saffron jus
was a fine enough idea, but it
seems it's so difficult to coax real flavor out of halibut these days.
Braised short ribs have become almost a requisite dish for every
restaurant in America to have on the menu, so a chef has to work hard
to distinguish his: DiMeglio's are as good as most, with a celery root
puree, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and crispy onion, if nothing
really out of the ordinary. Don't neglect ordering either the
shoestring potatoes or the herbed onions rings--both addictive.
My favorite dessert was a sticky date pudding
with ginger tapioca, candied walnuts, and a delightful pomegranate
sorbet--a blockbuster of sweets best shared with another.
Also excellent was roasted pineapple semifreddo
with brown butter
caramel, cinnamon oat waffles, and almond streusel, and what's not to
love about the homey triple chocolate sundae composed of a bitter
chocolate torte, cocoa nib ice cream, and luscious gianduja hot
chocolate? While other pastry chefs are scenting ice cream
with basil and making sake sorbets, Olana's Katie Rosenhouse is serving
the kinds of desserts that everybody will love and, probably,
Olana has not been on everyone's radar
this year but it deserves to be. There's a lot of effort by
DiMeglio and the Resk Brothers going into each aspect of the
restaurant, from décor and crisp napery and tablesettings to
would be tough not to like. Olana is not a concept, it's a damn
good place to eat.
Olana is open Mon.–
Fri. for lunch, Mon.-Sat. for dinner. At dinner appetizers run
$13-$17; pastas $15-$16 as a starter, $20-$26 as a main course; main
courses $25-$39. Four-course tasting menu at $69, five courses at $81.
FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Pink Floyd, and Brangelina
Give Provence Rosés Year-Round Glamor
by John Mariani
Conventional wisdom—or mindless
tradition—dictates that rosé wines are delightful for summer but
not serious enough to drink past Labor Day. I’ve bought into that
notion myself, usually drinking and writing about rosés in early
summer and forgetting about them until the following
The Bordure Maritime
Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News,
from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from
art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and
some of its articles play on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV
But a recent tasting for wine media at
Le Cirque restaurant in New York held by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de
Provence (CIVP), representing 583 producers, private and
corporate cellars, dispelled those seasonal considerations in an
effort, quite simply, to get people to drink more Provence rosés.
There are several appellations under
French wine law for the region—Côtes de Provence, Côteaux
d’Aix-en-Provence, Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, Côtes
de Provence Frejus, and Côteaux Varois en Provence—all in the
south of France, from Aix-en-Provence down along the French Riviera.
More than a dozen grape varieties are grown throughout the region,
principally grenache, carignane, syrah, and cinsault; about 80 percent
of production is in rosé wines. The rose color comes from saignée (“bled)—the use of
free-run juice from just-crushed red grapes after a short maceration.
Now that that’s out of the way, let me
focus in on the question of whether rosé wines can hold their
own with cold weather fare. Frankly, there’s no reason why any
good rosé cannot substitute for white wine, which winelovers
drink throughout the winter with the usual lighter dishes like seafood
and chicken. In fact, a good quality rosé has considerably more
flavor than many white wines like pinot gris, pinot blanc,
sémillon, and grüner veltliner.
More important, the rosés from
Provence now coming into the market have considerably more intensity
than so many of the old standbys like Domaine Ott, which I’ve always
found a bland, flowery, too-dry blend of ugni blanc and semillon, and
at $35 a bottle way overpriced.
But the wines I tasted at the luncheon—some
given fanciful names that should appeal to the American winedrinker who
already enjoys French wines like Red Bicyclette—had both flavor and
intensity along with a rosier color; and they are priced right.
With salad Niçoise and lobster
risotto (two dishes that are as appealing in summer as in fall), we
drank two wines: Cuvée du Cep
d’Or Les Maîtres Vignerons de Saint-Tropéz 2007
($8-$14), a 50-50 blend of grenache and cinsault that had a golden
peach color and was dry but fruity right through to the finish; and a Château d’Esclans “Whispering Angel”
2007 ($20), also dry and deeper in rose color, with a lovely
aromatic ending that was due to a blend of five
varietals—grénache, rolle, cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre.
Those last two gave it real ballast and, at 13.2 percent alcohol a
main courses were monkfish with a blanquette
of curry, coconut, and scallions with rice pilaf, and
chicken with a fricassée of chanterelle mushrooms. With these we
enjoyed a Château de Pourcieux 2007, with a fresh, floral nose
and plenty of fruit throughout the palate, and at $16 a wine of
distinctive, high quality.
Le Cirque then
sent out a “Symphony of Desserts” with which drier rosés might
not have coped well. But a Château
Miraval Cuvée “Pink Floyd’ 2007 ($22), a blend of
cinsault and a little grénache that has a deep rose color,
showed remarkably well with the rich floating island dessert of poached
meringues and crème anglaise. The name, by the way, comes from
Pink Floyd’s recording “The Wall” at the château’s recording
studio here in 1977. Today the new owners of the property (left) are Brad Pitt and Angelina
With the desserts we also had a quite complex
rosé with a balance the taste of toasted almonds and rich fruit
flavors—Domaine Saint André de
Figuière 2007 Réserve ($27)--although the
sweetness of the desserts blunted the latter.
I would happily drink these wines with
these kinds of foods at any time of the year, not with red meats or
spicy sauces but with most appetizers, any seafood, chicken, even veal.
Oh, I learned one other thing about rosés that day: Do not chill
them down too much—about 55 to 60 degrees is ideal—because cold kills
their subtleties, even in a hot summer along the Riviera.
WHY THERE'LL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND!
According to the Prince's 2007-08 Annual Review, a
disclosure of the Royal family's financial activity for one
fiscal year, Prince Charles fills his 38-year-old Aston Martin with
surplus English wine. The car now runs on wine-based
bioethanol, while his Jaguar, Audi and Range Rover run on
biodiesel, sourced from used cooking oil.
FOOD WRITING 101:
When You Run Out of
Things to Write About Do
Not Just Print Your Grocery List.
"But on Saturday morning—(rain, happily! seriously cuts
down on the crowds, and strollers are rare)—I decided to take my time
and buy everything I'd buy at the grocery store. Plus a lot more
corn than most people would imagine eating. Six, seven, eight,
nine ears is a perfect Saturday morning breakfast as far as I'm
concerned (I bought 18 ears for $9). I did not by the five-pound $25
duck. I did not buy potatoes or some of the beautiful greens
available (wish I had). And when I totaled it all up, it didn't
cost much more than what I'd have spent at the grocery store on a
typical visit. For $71 bucks, and a few staples, I think I've got
four great meals for four, plus a couple of lunches."—Michael Ruhlman's
On Oct. 18 Primehouse New York’s
Executive Chef Brian O’Donohoe hosts a 6-course menu with select wines
from Napa Valley’s Hall Winery, for $175 pp. Call 212-331-0328.
On Oct. 19 the "Rising Stars of Opera and Wine" will be featured at
NYC’s Chanterelle, part
of Sunday Salons, a year-long series inspired by the passions and
interests of the Chanterelle family, bringing together beloved subjects
including wine, music, cheese, chocolate, poetry and spirits. For
information on the Met’s 125th anniversary season visit
* Hearth and Insieme in NYV will feature a Fall
Series of Wine Dinners at Hearth, with Wine Director Paul Grieco.
They will incl.: Oct. 21: Rancio Wines of Roussillon (Hearth);
Oct. 28: Super Hot Spain (Hearth); Nov. 3: Bounty of Brews (Hearth);
Nov. Southwest of France (Hearth); Nov. 12 (Insieme); et al. For
info call 646-602-1300; visit
On Nov. 9 Chef Dante de Magistris of Dante
in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in East Cambridge, Massachusetts has invited
some of Boston’s premier chefs to battle it out at an outdoor, meatball
cook-off. chef who creates the winning dish will receive a grand prize
and the title of “Best Balls of ‘Em All.” $20 pp.
11-13 the 2008 Fall Oregon
Bounty Winemaker Dinner Series features 10 Oregon restaurants
and 14 wineries involved in the Oregon Bounty campaign celebrating the
state’s wineries, restaurants, culinary destinations and inns and
hotels. Proceeds support the Classic Wines Auction and its local
nonprofit partners benefiting families and children in Portland and
Southwest Washington.Visit www.classicwinesauction.com.
On Nov. 12, 13
& 14, Brian Moule Chef owner of Chardon
d’Or Glasgow will join Jason Wicks at NYC’s Orsay for a 6- course tasting menu
of wild Scottish game and artisanal hand made cheese coming from a Jaff
reade on the Isle of Mull. Glenmorangie will be pouring a newly
released 25 year old single malt. $165 pp. Call 212-517-0015.
From Nov. 13-16 The Colony
Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, FL, holds its annual
Stone Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival with chefs Sean Brock of
McCrady’s in Charleston, SC; Amanda Lydon of The Straight Wharf
Restaurant in Nantucket, MA; Colby & Megan Garrelts of Bluestem in
Kansas City, MO; Felicia Suzanne Willett of Felicia Suzanne’s in
Memphis, TN; and Jamil Pineda from The Colony Restaurants in Longboat
Key, FL. Winemakers from Reynolds Family Winery, Bell Wine Cellars,
Antica, Van Duzer Vineyards and Mumm Napa will feature a variety of
their chosen selections. Complete festival packages incl. 3 days and
nights of culinary events. Visit http://www.colonybeachresort.com/ or