Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Catch at Hotel Casa del Mar (Santa Monica, CA): Excellent Ocean View Dining

Dining with an ocean view can be disappointing food-wise, but the new Chef at Catch, Sven Mede, aims to make it better at this fresh seafood-centric restaurant inside Hotel Casa del Mar.

View from my seat
Of course, I couldn't say no to the Grand Shellfish Platter for two (Maine lobster, citrus poached shrimp, Alaskan King Crab legs, East & West coast oysters, Cherrystone clams, ceviche, served with traditional garnishes - $68)
The East Coast oysters were Cape Cod Sweet Petite and the West Coast oysters were Crystal Bay. Both oysters were unusually good and fresh, the Sweet Petites were the best oysters I've had in recent memory. The clams were also exceptional. The lobster was unfortunately a little tough, but otherwise we loved the shellfish platter.
The raw seafood continues with Maine diver scallop crudo, blood orange, rhubarb, basil ($14)
Beautiful, delicate flavors.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Calling Peat and Whisky Lovers: Peatin' Meetin' V on June 29

If you're not a member of the LA Scotch Club, you may not know about their annual Peatin' Meetin', open to anyone who enjoys peaty whisky. They will all convene next Saturday, June 29 at the Upper Picnic Area at UCLA's Sunset Canyon for over 100 peated whiskies including Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Smokehead, Lagavulin, and many more.
The great thing about this event is that the whiskies you will taste there are not just from sponsors, but they use their own club funds to source some rare whiskies. It's all about sharing a great whisky with fellow lovers.

Other than over 100 peated whiskies, 7Grand will also be on site making peated cocktails! You won't be drinking on an empty stomach, fret not. They will be peat smoking 175 lbs of New York strip sirloin this year. There will also be peated beer!

Tickets are $100 all-inclusive (or $40 for non-drinkers). You will also get a free t-shirt if you register early. Tickets and more information are available on

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Art Meets Cocktails: Art Beyond The Glass II on June 30

Last year, many of LA's best bartenders showcased their multiple talents in mixology and art/photography/music at the first Art Beyond the Glass, held at Sadie Kitchen and Lounge in Hollywood. The 2nd Art Beyond the Glass is coming up real soon, next week at the beautiful Invention inside the members-only Los Angeles Athletic Club! This is also your chance to check out the bar without splurging on that membership fee.


Here are the deets:
Sunday, June 30, 2013. 3:30pm – 7:30pm
Los Angeles Athletic Club
431 W 7th St Los Angeles, CA 90014
Tickets are $50 and available on Eventbrite (with part of the proceeds benefiting Art Share LA). You can see next week's bartender lineup here, and you should get excited..

I definitely drank more than $50 worth of cocktails last year. Great cocktails were overflowing, of course, with so many bartenders rotating shifts. New bartenders and new drinks every hour! Plan to stay for most of the event.
Jaymee Mandeville and Cari Hah serving up their sangritas.
Cari will be at next week's event.
But they weren't just there to mix drinks. Eugene Lee from Big Bar exhibited some of his photographs. Some, like Cana Rum Bar's Allan Katz were DJing for the afternoon.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lucky Devils (Hollywood, CA)

Lucky Devils is one of the oldest craft beer bar in Hollywood, though I actually went to taste the wines from their newly installed wine taps. Lucky Devils was opened by former model Lucky Vanous. It was before my time but Wandering Chopsticks who came with me did remember this old Diet Coke commercial. I've never heard much about Lucky's before and wasn't sure what to expect, but to my surprise the food was actually pretty good. On this particular strip of Hollywood Blvd, Lucky's may well be one of the best options.

As I was being seated for my tasting I noticed a menu of "six courses" with multiple items listed under each and 12 wines. Oh, I need to choose, I thought, but I was quickly corrected. I was apparently getting all of them. All 10 dishes+2 fries+2 desserts+12 wines.

We started with some olive tapenade and jalapeno hummus with char-grilled bread.

Wandering Chopsticks loved the charred bread and couldn't stop eating them even though we have 10+ more courses to come.

With this first appetizer we tried three different white wines they had on tap:
 2011 Zocker Gruner Veltliner. Vibrant, crisp. Notes of stone fruit (melon).
2011 Hess Chardonnay. Slightly buttery. From Monterey's coastal valley.
2011 Acrobat Pinot Gris. Nice one. A hint of sweetness, a bit sweeter than the Zocker.

They only have wines on tap here so you may not find many wineries you know and like, but the most expensive 6oz pour is $9.50 and most is $7.50.

Short rib sliders (braised with caramelized vegetables, wild arugula, horseradish cream, Hawaiian sweet rolls) and truffle parmesan chips (it's truffle oil).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sneak Peek of LA Street Food Fest, June 29 2013

LA Street Food Fest is returning to the Rose Bowl on June 29. While I recently did a recap of last year's Food Fest, I previewed some of this year's vendors and there are some new ones you should be excited about!

1. Dante's Fried Chicken: Sock-It-To-Me fried chicken with coconut honey black sesame biscuit
Despite being white meat this was an awesome piece of fried chicken! 

2. Donut Snob.
Donut Snob has no retail store and you can usually only get them by pre-order, so the Food Fest is the perfect time to try these amazing donuts! No, really, they are some of the best in LA.

3. D'elish Sandwich Shop by Tiara Cafe: pastrami smoked short rib on fresh baked potato roll with slaw and jalapeno pickles

4. El Coraloense had all kinds of ceviche tostada during the preview. I tried the crab ceviche 

5. Local distillery Greenbar will be showcasing their new poppy liqueur, but if you shy away from alcohol, La Guelaguetza's horchata is always a good bet!

Some of the old favorites will make a return, but I'm excited about many of the new ones. These are just but a tiny portion of the vendors that will be there, so be sure to get your tickets soon at 
All inclusive general admission tickets are $50 and VIP early admission is $75 with access to the Luxe Lounge (one time they had special cocktails and free massage!)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Giveaway! Sunset & Dine: Food, Drinks, Movie

On June 13th the 2nd annual Sunset and Dine kicks off! It's the summer movie screening program at Academy Hollywood, the outdoor amphitheatre on the campus of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

From 6-10pm you can watch a great classic while partaking in food, beer, and wine samples from local establishments and all proceeds from the $30 ticket will go to local charities.

The food: some of the best pizza in town from the new Stella Barra, followed by old favorites like Los Balcones del Peru and El Floridita along with promising new stars I haven't tried like Urban Masala, The Waffle and more.

The drinks: beer from Hollywood favorite Blue Palms Brewhouse, K&L Wines and more.

The movie: a wonderful classic and one of my favorites film noir, Sunset Boulevard, starring Gloria Swanson. 

So. I have two pairs of tickets to give away to two lucky readers (valued at $30 per ticket)!

To enter, leave a comment below with your email contact.

Get extra entries by tweeting: "Food, beer, Sunset Blvd film under the stars. Win tix to Sunset&Dine via @gourmetpigs "

Since the event is coming up soon this is going to be a quick one and you have until midnight of Monday June 10 to enter! I'll be drawing the winners on Tuesday. Good luck!

Academy Hollywood is located at 6322 DeLongpre Ave. in Hollywood.  Tickets are on sale now at

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Brunch and Burger at Sunny Spot (Venice, CA)

Sunny Spot is the perfect brunch spot. Colorful space with an outdoor dining area, great cocktails by Brian Butler (with recently added bottomless mimosa and Bloody Mary), and delicious comfort Caribbean food from Roy Choi.

A staple dish is the Muh-F*K*N Mofongo and eggs (2 fried eggs, ripe plantains, applewood bacon, fennel, garlic, fresh herbs, ginger oil - $11)

Rather than the Hangover Plate, I think this one would be a better cure for that hangover! The rich and bold flavors would soothe that headache right away.

There's a sweet deal for a boozy brunch: Bottomless mimosa, Bloody Mary, cava, or rum punch (you can mix and match any of them) for $10 with purchase of a main course. If you prefer a craft cocktail instead they are $11 each. I highly recommend Permanent Vacation (Peychaud's, tequila, hibiscus, lemon, carpano, ginger beer)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer Truffle Menu at Celestino (Pasadena)

Celestino Ristorante in Pasadena is one of six restaurants owned by the four Drago brothers. The one in charge of Celestino is actually Calogero Drago who named the restaurant after the eldest brother.

Unlike the higher end Drago or Drago Centro, Celestino is intimate and rustic. It's a place where you'd feel at home and where by the end of dinner you know that the chef is going truffle hunting in two weeks and that your server's wife just gave birth to their second baby. In like with this feel, Celestino is offering an affordable summer truffle menu, which will be available until around mid or late June. 

The truffle items are available a la carte, but to get the best value order the four course prix fixe for $58! The 4-course menu lets you choose one dish from the truffle antipasti, pasta, and meat/fish menu and finishes with Tartufo ice cream. Considering the a la carte pricing of $15-38, the $58 prix fixe is the way to go.

At Celestino, they stick with traditional recipes. The antipasti selection includes Tuna Carpaccio with Mushrooms and Truffles ($18)
Calogero explained that summer truffle is called bianchetti. These truffles are black on the outside and white on the inside. This was new to me as I'm used to having truffles with something richer, not tuna carpaccio. The mushrooms accentuated the truffles and the combination with tuna was both interesting and delicious.

Soft Polenta with Mushroom in Fontina Cheese and Shaved Black Truffle Sauce ($18)
The consistency of the soft polenta was pretty runny. I'm not sure if this is usual, but we ate it almost like it was soup.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Travel: Living Desert Zoo & Gardens (Palm Desert, CA)

So Palm Springs Restaurant Week started this past weekend. If you haven't checked it out, you still have time since it's running til June 16!

It's not just about restaurant deals, they also have specials on local attractions like the Red Jeep Desert Tour.

When I was there I also checked out The Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens. There were so many cute animals there!

First we passed by an expansive model train display

Next, giraffes! Giraffes eating, giraffes peeing ...

The great thing about Living Desert is that you can get quite close to some of the animals there, since the zoo is not as large or popular as San Diego.

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