Zen and the Art of Fine Dining

One thing that you may not know about me is that I’m really into meditation. Between all the food adventures, I’m taking sound baths, silently repeating mantras, and aligning my chakras.

Auburn, an upscale restaurant which opened this past year in Hollywood, has a simple yet refined elegance that appeals to my zen-loving self. The modern decor is minimal with white walls, lots of natural light, and beautiful hand-crafted blonde wood furniture with clean lines.

The menu of New American cuisine lists twelve small plates of roughly equal size, from which you can select either four, six or nine courses with optional wine pairing for your own custom-designed tasting experience. Chef Eric Bost’s dishes are each beautifully composed and perfectly balanced, creating a blissful sense gastronomic harmony.

My favorites are the incredible Epoisses Cheese and Sunchokes with Seeds and Flowers and the superb Sonoma Duck Aged in Kogi with Mustard Greens and Roasted Figs. And while a dessert selection is certainly optional, I wouldn’t miss Pastry Chef Dyan Ng’s spectacularly tart and sweet Yogurt with Mushroom Caramel.

Auburn is located at 6703 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles (in Hollywood). Namaste.

Puffed Pig Ears
Corn Tartlet with Rye and Corn Custard
Boule with Avocado Butter
Santa Barbara Abalone with Mitsutake Mushrooms, Kabocha Squash, and Broth of Bone Marrow and Roasted Chicken
HIramasa Crudo with Citrus Fern, Celery, Purple Radish, Blackberry and Fingerlime
Eggplant charred in the hearth with Puffed Grains, Black Garlic, Almonds and Onion Essence
Sonoma Duck aged in Koji with Mustard Greens and Roasted Figs
30 Day Dry-Aged Rib Eye with Oxtail, Turnips, Nori, Charred Grapes and Red Wine
Epoisses Cheese and Sunchokes with Seeds and Flowers
Yogurt with Mushroom Caramel
Candied Rhubarb

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The 10 Best Things I Consumed in 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, it’s time to wax poetic on my 10 favorite things that I ate and wrote about this year. Here are the winners:

Mashed Avocado with Watermelon Radish, Sprouts, Grape Seed Oil, Red Pepper Flakes and Lemon on Pumpernickel from Alfred Coffee (it’s only served in the Silver Lake location)

10. Avocado Toast from Alfred Coffee. Although usually referred to as a vegetable, an avocado is actually a fruit. This fruit and bread combo is the best in the City.

Brown Butter Mochi from Porridge + Puffs

9. Brown Butter Mochi from Porridge and Puffs. “Aloha” is Hawaiian for hello, goodbye and love. I aloha this dessert.

Focaccia from Triple Beam Pizza (and served at Hippo)

8. Focaccia from Triple Beam Pizza. Saying that a delicious, can’t-get-enough-of-it food is “like crack” is the most overused expression in food bloggerdom. This focaccia bread is like heroin.

Sweet Corn Cappellacci with Funghi Misti and Fresh Thyme from Hippo

7. Sweet Corn Cappellacci from Hippo. Q: What does corn say when it receives a compliment? A: Aw, shucks. The Corn Cappellacci at Hippo is much better than this joke.

Iceberg Salad with Grilled Thick Cut Smoke Bacon and Danish Blue Cheese from APL

6. Iceberg Salad from APL. This is the first time a salad has made my annual list. But in all fairness, it’s basically a giant, thick slice of smoked bacon and gobs of incredible Danish blue cheese, accompanied by some lettuce.

Fried Chicken from Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

4 (tie). Fried Chicken from Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. Three words: Finger. Lickin’. Great.

Smokey Frid Chicken from Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

4. (tie). Smokey Fried Chicken from Plan Check Kitchen + Bar. Also finger lickin’ great.

Morning Bun from Tartine Sycamore

3. Morning Bun from Tartine Sycamore. I agree with Ellen Degeneres who said “I don’t think I really need buns of steel; I’d be happy with buns of cinnamon.” While Tartine Manufactory closed this month, these awesome buns of cinnamon, caramelized sugar and orange zest can still be found in LA at sister restaurant Tartine Sycamore.

Pastrami Reuben from Freedman’s

2. Pastrami Rueben from Freedman’s. I love Ruebens so much that I married one (although technically my wife’s maiden name is spelled Rubin). This Pastrami Rueben is not as good as my wife, but is pretty awesome nonetheless.

Dry Aged Tomahawk Chop from APL

1 . Dry Aged Tomahawk Chop from APL. Smells like foie gras. Tastes like truffles. Costs a fortune but worth every penny. It’s the best thing that I consumed and wrote about in 2019.

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Filed under Downtown, Echo Park, Highland Park, HIstoric Filipino Town, Hollywood, Mid-City, Santa Monica, Silverlake, West LA

My Spirit Animal

In a calorie-counting city like LA, I’m not sure that “Hippo“ is the best name for a restaurant, especially one where you want to ravenously eat every single thing on the menu. But I have no doubt that flocks of famished foodies and hordes of hungry hipsters will be migrating to this wondrous watering hole for many years to come.

Hippo is a small plate joint and the cuisine is largely Italian with a bunch of other things thrown in. I recommend you start your savory safari with the Wax Bean Salad and the incredible Burrata flown in from Lazio, Italy. The complimentary Foccacia imported from sister restaurant Triple Beam Pizza is wildly good.

For mains, I recommend the Sweet Corn Cappellaci Pasta and the very un-Italian Barbecued Pork Country Ribs with Bok Choy, Scallion Salad and Sesame. The Custard Tart with Poached Peaches, Candied Lemon Zest and Crème Fraîche is a great way to end your fabulous adventure.

Hippo is located at 5916 1/2 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles (in Highland Park).

Cool Wax Beans, fresh Serrano Chile, Roasted Hazelnuts and Frenchie Vinaigrette
Burrata di Bufala imported from Lazio, Italy with Fett’unta
Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio with Onion Soy Vinaigrette, Upland Cress and Chive
Griddle’d Cauliflower with Cauliflower “Tahini” and Walnut Raisin Caper Relish
Focaccia baked at sister-restaurant Triple Beam Pizza
Sweet Corn Cappellacci, Funghi Misti and Fresh Thyme
Tagliolini with Duck Ragú
Custard Tart with Poached Peaches, Candied Lemon Zest and Crème Fraîche
Hippo “Tiramisu” with Almond Olive Oil Cake soaked in Coffee and Spiced Rum and a Espresso Mascarpone Cream
Hippo is actually an acronym for the Highland Park Post Office, which previously resided in the restaurant’s location

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Knives Out

In our youth-obsessed society, it’s nice to be reminded that many things get better with age. Wine, whiskey, leather boots and cast iron pans all improve as they mature, as do certain cuts of beef if they are “dry-aged.”

At APL in Hollywood, Chef Adam Perry Lang, whose monogram is the moniker of his marvelous steakhouse, knows a thing or two about dry-aging meat. Lang expertly ages his beef in a specially built basement refrigerator for months, producing steaks and chops which are extremely tender, smell like foie gras and have an incredible other-worldly flavor. This is a luxury item like truffles and caviar, with a price-tag to match.

APL also serves tasty chicken, fish and pasta, but unless you don’t eat red meat, you’re making a mistake by not getting the dry-aged beef. The other must-order dinner item is the Iceberg Salad with crumbled Danish blue cheese and a big, thick slice of grilled smoked bacon. It’s the best wedge salad I’ve ever consumed and the perfect intro to a magnificent meat fest. For lunch, APL serves some of the best BBQ in town.

APL is located at 1680 Vine Street, Los Angeles (in Hollywood).

Little Gems Salad with Avocado “Goddess”, Puffed Grains & Seeds
Iceberg Salad with Grilled Thick Cut Smoked Bacon and Danish Blue Cheese
Spaghetti with Bianco Dinapoli Tomatoes
Brick Half Chicken with Sage, Cranberry Relish and Lemon Herb Dressing
Broccolini with Parmesan Cheese
This is what the dining room looks like.
This is what the knives look like.
This is what the dry aging meat in APL’s cooler looks like.
This is what the BBQ served at lunchtime looks like.

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Bubbe Chic

Dining at Freedman’s is like eating at your Jewish grandmother’s house, except Bubbe has upped her food game and is throwing a dinner party for Eastside hipsters. The chopped liver is a mousse with figs and hazelnuts.  The latkes are shaped like Belgian waffles. And the to-die-for glazed brisket is cut tableside with an electric knife by a heavily tatted and mustachioed man. 

Freedman’s has a fun bubbe chic vibe with spectacular vintage wallpaper and olde tyme light fixtures.  An impressively stocked bar serves cocktails named “Deli Calling” (Future Gin, Orange Liqueur, Yellow Mustard, Lemon, Cel-Ray and Herbs) and “Full Sour” (Aquavit, Dry Vermouth and Pickle Brine).  To end your meal, the traditional black and white deli cookie has been reimagined with fudge and toasted marshmallow. It will have you kvelling!

Freedman’s is located at 2619 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles (in Silver Lake).

A fish carafe of water on every table
Pastrami Reuben with house-cured pastrami
Matzo Ball Soup
Chicken Liver with Fig and Hazelnut
Potato Latke with Cured Ocean Trout and Creme Fresh
Grilled Gem Salad with Chicken Skin Breadcrumbs and Bottarga
Gnocchi Parisienne with English Peas, Horseradish and Mint
Black and White Cookie with Fudge and Toasted Marshmallow
Guava Cheesecake (inspired by Bubbe’s trip to Hawaii?)
The wallpaper is phenomenal

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Filed under Silver Lake