Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Olympics for Foodies

I love a good food festival and I’m happy to report that Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival is back after a very successful inaugural year last year. It will take place from August 9-12 at locations all across the city. If you’re not familiar with Los Angeles Food & Wine, it’s pretty much the Olympics for foodies, although it’s not a competition and everyone is a winner. I went to four of their events last year and had an amazing time and ate a lot of incredible food. Top chefs from all over the country, including Hubert Keller, Susur Lee, Michael Mina, Michelle Bernstein, Michael Chiarello, Graham Elliot and Kerry Heffernan, as well as many of the best chefs in Los Angeles, are participating this year.

Events range from grand tastings to special dinners at some of LA’s top restaurants to cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs such as Richard Blais and Michael and Bryan Voltaggio. There are around 40 events in all and include a decadent champagne and caviar tasting night at the Montage, an Asian night market hosted by Andrew Zimmern from the Travel Channel show “Bizarre Foods,” and an Italian food and wine celebration at LA Live hosted by Giada De Laurentiis. A portion of Los Angeles Food & Wine’s proceeds go to benefit a great cause, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. Some events are already sold out. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

UPDATE: Los Angeles Food & Wine did not disappoint this year! I attended a couple events and had an amazing time. Highlights included meeting chefs Michael Chiarello, Susur Lee and Floyd Cardoz, as well as seeing some of my local favorites including Ricardo Zarate, Antonia Lafaso and Susan Feniger, and of course trying each of their dishes. My favorite savory dish was a Lobster Pig in a Blanket from new Downtown restaurant Towne. My favorite dessert was a Nutella Banana Panini with Bacon, Toffee and Espresso Nibs from Chef Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine Food ‘n Drink in Miami. It was so good!

Wine-wise, the highlight was a wine tasting led by Delta Airlines Sommelier Andrea Robinson (who knew Delta had their own Sommelier?!), who introduced eight California wines which are part of the new Delta Winemaker Series. These specially selected wines, including a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara-based Inception Wines and a Viognier from Miner Family Winery, will be available on flights between JFK and LAX, as well as JFK and SFO.

Delta Sommelier Andrea Robinson hosted a wine tasting.

Wines from the Delta Winemaker Series

Brilliant Chef Susar Lee from Toronto preparing Chinese Duck Sausage Pies

Chefs Michael Chiarello and Fabio Viviani

Picca and Mo-Chica’s Chef Ricardo Zarate and partner Stephane Bombet

Chef Susan Feniger from Street

Chef Floyd Cardoz made pork & beans!

Chef Antonia Lafaso from Black Market Liquor Bar

Pig in a Blanket from Towne

Nutella Banana Paninis with Bacon, Toffee and Espresso Nibs

Alcoholic Frozen Push-ups from Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas

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Filed under Uncategorized

Three Iconic LA Eateries Revisited

Every city has its landmark diners and food stands, perenially popular places that have survived the test of time and become local institutions. Growing up and going to college in Los Angeles, I would frequent many of this city’s landmark eateries back in the day, often late at night with my fraternity brothers. Feeling nostalgic last week, I decided to revisit three such restaurants, two of which I had not been to in over 25 years. I was curious to see whether these iconic eateries would live up to my memories.

My first stop was Pink’s Hot Dogs. Pink’s was founded by Paul and Betty Pink, who started selling hot dogs from a pushcart in 1939 and upgraded to their current brick and mortar location in 1946. As evidenced by the perpetually long lines, Pink’s is the most popular hot dog stand in the city. They specialize in chili dogs and also offer numerous hot dog creations named after celebrities such as Ozzy Osbourne and Martha Stewart. A lesser known fact is that they have incredibly delicious slices of coconut and marble layer cakes. I have great memories of midnight “hot dog runs” to Pink’s, but rarely go there anymore. However, my opinion of Pink’s has not changed. Pink’s hot dogs aren’t the best in Los Angeles, but they’re still very good and Pink’s is a fun place to go.

My next stop was Tito’s Tacos, LA’s most famous taco stand. Tito’s Tacos opened in 1959 and is known for their inexpensive hard shell tacos and close proximity to the airport. I hadn’t been to Tito’s since I was at UCLA. I’m not sure whether the restaurant has gone downhill since then or my palette has become more sophisticated, but I was incredibly disappointed when I recently visited Tito’s. I certainly didn’t remember very dry and flavorless shredded beef, rubbery cheese and watery salsa and guacamole (which should more appropriately be referred to as “avocado sauce”). There are probably 100 better taquerias in LA. I guess some memories are better left alone.

My final stop was The Apple Pan. Around since 1947, The Apple Pan is a diner famous for their burgers and pies. All seating is at a long U-shaped counter which surrounds the cooking area. The servers are grumpy old men who provide uber efficient, no-nonsense service. There is usually a wait. Eating at The Apple Pan again after a quarter of a century, I was still impressed with their Hickory Burger. It’s not UmamiBurger, but really tasty nonetheless. I was less enamored of my apple pie, which had a burnt crust. But all in all, The Apple Pan was a fun experience — a real blast from the past — and I’ll probably not wait another 25 years to go back.

Pink’s Hot Dogs is located at 709 N. La Brea, Los Angeles (Mid-City). Tito’s Tacos is located at 11222 Washington Place in Culver City. The Apple Pan is located at 10801 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles (in West LA). If you enjoy Consuming LA, please subscribe, like me on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter at the top right of this page. And please forward to your friends!

Pink’s Hot Dogs

Pink’s Chili Dog with Cheese

Pink’s Layer Cake

Tito’s Tacos

Tito’s Taco with Cheese and Chili Beans

Tito’s Chips and Salsa

The Apple Pan

The Apple Pan’s Hickory Burger and Fries

The Apple Pan’s Apple Pie

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon
Tito's Tacos on Urbanspoon
The Apple Pan on Urbanspoon


Filed under Culver City, Mid-City, West LA

Saam I Aam

Located in a clandestine room behind an unmarked door at the rear of The Bazaar in the SLS Hotel, Saam offers one of the best and most exciting dining experiences in the city. Here, super-star chef José Andrés has crafted a tasting menu of approximately 22 small plates of whimsy and gastronomical delight, almost all of which do not appear on the menu at The Bazaar. With so many courses, the meal takes around 3 1/2 hours to complete. Service is top-notch; among the best I’ve ever experienced. Of course Saam is not inexpensive. The cost is $120 per person plus tax, tip, optional wine pairing ($100) and optional shaved truffles ($35-$50 per course). But as with The French Laundry, this is not just a meal. It’s an evening of entertainment; a special and unique experience.

Chef Andrés, who trained at the legendary El Bulli in Barcelona, is incredibly creative and utilizes molecular gastronomy and other playful techniques to surprise and wow his diners. There are scallops masquerading as carrots, spherified mozzerella balls which instantly liquify in your mouth, a Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich which has been elevated both literally and figuratively, and a Spanish street food favorite that has been turned inside-out. It’s all really delicious too. One of the high points of the meal is “Dragon’s Breath Popcorn,” a puffed corn cake that is immersed in liquid nitrogen at your table, causing smoke to come out of your nose and mouth when you eat it. The desserts are excellent also, especially the frozen Apricot Timbale with Amaretto, and there is a gift of chocolates to take home.

Saam is located in the SLS Hotel at 465 S. La Cienega, Los Aneles (Mid-City near Beverly Hills and West Hollywood). If you enjoy Consuming LA, please subscribe, like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter at the top right of this page. And please forward to your friends!

Apple Meringue with Blue Cheese


Spicy Handroll


Seabeans in Tempura


Oyster and Jambon


Jose’s Combination


Brussels Sprouts


Patatas Bravas


Chicken Skin & Cigala


Not Your Everyday Caprese


Crispy Nigiri


Uni & Eel



Banh Mi


Carrot or Scallop




Mushroom & Duck Liver


Dessert Desert

Japanese Baby Peaches

Dragon’s Breath Popcorn


Apricot Timbale with Amaretto


Sexy Little Sweets


Cotton Candy Cocktails


Gifts to take home!


Located in a clandestine room behind Bazaar

SAAM at The Bazaar on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Mid-City, West Hollywood

Wait For It

Not content with cupcake supremacy, Sprinkles has now branched into ice cream. Sprinkles Ice Cream opened recently in Bevely Hills next door to Sprinkles Cupcakes and the awesome Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, a vending machine where you can buy cupcakes at any time day or night. I’m a huge fan of Sprinkles Cupcakes so I was very excited to see what pastry chef/owner Candace Nelson does with ice cream. As with their cupcake shop, the cornerstone of Sprinkles Ice Cream is red velvet. They have red velvet ice cream, red velvet cones, red velvet crumb topping and you can get a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two halves of a red velvet cupcake. I thought the red velvet ice cream, which is essentially vanilla ice cream with red velvet crumbs mixed in, was pretty good but not amazing.

In addition to red velvet, there are eleven daily rotating flavors, as well as six different kinds of homemade cookies. I liked some of the ice cream flavors such as dark chocolate and salted caramel, but found other flavors to be disappointing. As a peanut butter fanatic, I had to try Sprinkles’ peanut butter cup ice cream, as well as their peanut butter pretzel chip cookie. Sad to say, I was not impressed with either. I did, however, absolutely love their gooey double chocolate cookie. It should also be mentioned that all of these treats are quite expensive. A single scoop costs $3.50 and a double scoop is $5.75. Toppings and cones are an extra dollar each and an ice cream sandwich will set you back $6.50 if it’s on cupcake “muffin tops” or a whopping $8.50 if it’s on cookies. There is a super miniature ice cream cone that you can get for $1.75, but it’s not much more than a taste and you can eat it in about two bites.

The most interesting (and annoying) thing about Sprinkles is their long lines. It’s not so much the number of people in line, but that the lines are incredibly slow-moving. You would think that the long lines would hurt business because many people would not want to wait, but I suspect the lines have the opposite effect. I’m pretty certain that Sprinkles intentionally tries to keep its lines long to reinforce their reputation of being highly in demand and to attract passersby, most of whom appear to be tourists eager to try something that is so seemingly sought-after in posh Beverly Hills. The store is completely understaffed and it seems as if each employee is required for some reason to disappear into a backroom for a period of time either while preparing each order and/or between waiting on each customer. It’s rather genius. But for me, while I’m willing to wait in line for a short while for Sprinkles Cupcakes, Sprinkles Ice Cream is just not worth it.

Sprinkles Ice Cream is located at 9631 S. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills. If you enjoy Consuming LA, please subscribe, like me on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter at the top right of this page. And please forward to your friends!

Vanilla bean ice cream with red velvet crumbs

Ice cream sandwich with peanut butter cup ice cream and vanilla cupcake tops

Salty caramel ice cream

Peanut butter pretzel chip cookie

Scooping ice cream on a red velvet cone

Be prepared to wait.

Cones and toppings

Sprinkles Ice Cream on Urbanspoon


Filed under Beverly Hills