Bon Vivant's written and pictorial diary of her culinary adventures that will amuse and excite your virtual taste buds...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Osteria La Buca

What an true Italian dinner is all about: good food, good company, and good times. Good times. Here is our table at the very popular and crowded Osteria La Buca on Melrose and Wilton. You can see Mr. Taste of Thai's arms in the background - his arms always get into the photos. On this night my genetics took over and I had an antipasto, a primi, a secondi, and dessert.

Situated in a tiny store front a few blocks from Paramount Studios, Osteria La Buca has been a hit since it first opened. They only have a handful of tables in the place, and about two years ago, or so it seems, they started an expansion into the place next door. From my viewpoint when I drive by, it looks as though they haven't made much progress. But I don't mind; I really like the intimate feel of the place and am afraid that it will lose a lot of it's charm when it becomes a normal sized restaurant (I used to work at Authentic Cafe when it was just the counter and those seven small tables right next to the kitchen, and I have to say the dynamics of the place changed for the worse when it expanded.)

Below, my antipasto with the highly coveted burratta cheese, prosciutto, salami, and arugula. The mellowness of the burratta works so well with the saltiness of the cured meats and the spiciness of the arugula.

My next course was tagliatelle with bolognese sauce. Sorry, mama (she was cooking that night) the sauce was good but not as good as my bolognese (although the texture of the homemade pasta was superb.)

My main course was the steak with gorgonzola sauce served over more arugula. Another triumpant flavor combination. Steak and blue veined cheeses go so well together as does the arugula with both of those items. How could this dish not be a success?

My dessert, a pear custard tart. The pears had been previously poached in a Barbaresco.

They just loved us there so mama came out of the kitchen, they pulled out the limoncello, we toasted to everyone's good health, and then they gave us a couple of more desserts on the house: tiramisu and a coffee panna cotta.

I have to say that this place has the yummiest looking pizza but I've never tried it. On my next outing there I will order it and report back to you.

Osteria La Buca
5210 1/2 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Maran Restaurant: The Russian Revolution

Below, chicken lula kebab that Nick ordered at the ever popular Maran Restaurant (recently featured in Los Angeles Magazine). This looked really good but I didn't get to try it.

If you want to celebrate five weddings at once, I suggest that you go to Maran on a Friday or Saturday night. What a spectacle it is to walk into the restaurant and see huge tables piled high with Russian and Georgian appetizers. Socalqtpi held an event here; it wasn't a wedding party though, but we were in the mood for some good times and good food.

Party like it's 1917? Hardly. We did nearly revolt though. It was our goofy waiter's first night and let me just say that when you still don't have your drink order correct 40 minutes after arrival you know that you are in trouble. The trend continued when half the table, my half to be exact, didn't get their appetizers, and then later our entrees refused to materialize. But I have tried to go back, been turned away due to lack of tables, because the food is so good.

Below, Mr. Taste of Thai's smoked fish platter. I had to resist eating this because I'm always eating Mr.'s food.

Below, two of the three eggplant appetizers that are offered. The one with walnuts I didn't eat (migraines) but the other dish was mine. It was so much better than it looked! It was a puree of roasted eggplant and peppers.

Below, my Borscht. Not such a great photo but the soup was divine.

Here is a bowl of Kharcho which is a spiced lamb and rice soup.

This was one of the last dishes to arrive. A split roasted cornish game hen with rice and potatoes - just my kind of dish! I haven't had a cornish hen since I was 10 years old but I've been trying to go back and order this.

Two views of my Georgian dumplings. These were very tasty and satisfying. You can see by the bottom picture how juicy they were - more so than a "soup" dumpling.

Maran Restaurant
6430 San Fernando Road
Glendale, CA 91201

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Little India Tour in Artesia

Savor the wonderful flavors, and beautiful colors, of Indian ice cream from Saffron Spot. On the top left is saffron pistachio; on the right is rose petal, and on the bottom is rajbhog (I have no idea what that flavor is!) Next time I'm trying the banana cardamom.

My Doppelganger set up a Little India Culinary Tour in Artesia a while back which was hosted by two very nice and lovely women (one had just been crowned Mrs. Asia USA) from the LA Mumbai Sister City Affiliation. First stop was at Tirupathi Bhimas Restaurant which is a chain of vegetarian restaurants in India that have come to California. Judging by how people started lining up to get in a half hour before it opened I would say this place is very popular.

Below, the feast that we received. In the foreground is a "mini" masala dosa (the regular sized ones are as big as my German Shepherds!); a dosa is a pancake made from fermented urad dal and rice batter, and masala is the spicy potato mixture that the dosa is stuffed with. In the second row to the right is idli sambar (kind of like Indian "gnocchi" in a spicy lentil sauce).

Below, a close up of my dosa with coconut and green (?) chutneys.

Below, a wonderful pea and carrot dish season with mustard seed and coconut flakes (these flavorings are used quite often in Southern Indian vegetarian cooking.)

Below, a very intersting curry. I have no idea what this vegetable was but it had the texture of squash.

Below, chai masala. The real thing, not that gross stuff made with powdered milk and high fructose corn syrup that you get at Starbuckies.

The ladies then took us to a jewelry store were we oohed and aahed over the wedding jewelry (this set below probably costs over $30K).

Next we went to Mirage to look at saris. Below, one of our volunteers is quickly transformed.

Below, all of our volunteers looking very dapper in their new threads.

Below, a little eye candy, Amir Khan, for the female contigency of Dear Reader.

Tirupathi Bhimas Restaurant
18792 Pioneer Blvd.
Artesia, CA 90701

Saffron Spot
18792 Pioneer Blvd.
Artesia, CA 90701

18638 Pioneer Blvd.
Artesia, CA 90701

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Friends in High Places: Lakefront Brewery

Below, a photo of the highly coveted Holiday Spice Lager brewed by Lakefront Brewery; I beat out the Ukranian hockey players for the last case available in 2006 (please don't tell them where I live - I would like to keep my teeth.)

Some people are very happy when they are friends with a Hollywood agent. Others when they marry into the managing partner's family. Me? I'm more than happy to have friends that have a brewery in Milwaukee. And not just any brewery but a brewery that brews the best beer that I've had since I've discovered the Hitachino Nest Beers. A shout-out to Orlando and Luther and all the guys at Lakefront Brewery!

What makes the Holiday Spice Lager so special? Could it be the wonderful spices (nutmeg, orange peel, cinnamon, clove, and ginger) from the Spice House? Or could it be that it's 10% abv? For us Angelenos who are used to the weak beer that is shipped to the West Coast (need I remind you of the Staples Center/"neer beer" fiasco?) this is a very big deal (even 5% abv is a very big deal out here!)

Below, two very happy Holiday Spice drinkers, USC Rad Grad Student and Maestro. Maestro, until very recently, was in the doghouse but now he is in the penthouse. How did he do it? you wonder. Well, he brought back from Paris for me for my bday a Miles Davis CD that you can't find in the States and a bottle of creme de fraise a la fraise des bois. See how easy it is to please me Dear Reader?

Below, another very happy Holiday Spice drinker.

Is reaching for a bottle of Holiday Spice Lager like reaching out to God?

Thanks to Orlando for making me a very popular hostess this holiday season!

Bonus photo: a cupcake made by Adorable Gourmet H. After staying up for 24 hours (how does Jack Bauer do it?) my reward after the bacchanalian New Year's Eve fete. 218 calories, 6.8 grams of fat each. Not bad stats, but I was left five of them...

Lakefront Brewery
1872 North Commerce Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Pepper's Continued Culinary Adventures

This is Pepper. I've posed the question to you before, Dear Reader, about whether Pepper was a Gourmet or a Gourmand (or as one Dear Reader put it: pain in the butt!) but I think I now have the answer: Pepper is a Gourmet. This past week he ate my sunglass case (Italian) that my brother got for me as a present from this chichi eyeglass store in Nolita. He also noshed on the box containing my new Kitchen Aid food processor that my brother gave me for Xmas (if he had touched the food process I'm afraid Dear Reader he would have joined his big brother Mr. Darcy on the "Rainbow Bridge.") Further, he got his chops on a fabulous cookbook, Biba's Italy, that I received for my bday (autographed copy too!)

Hm, I'm seeing a trend here: Pepper likes to eat presents.