Tag Archives: Ricardo Zarate

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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The Incan Road to Culinary Greatness

Mo Chica Prawns

Mo-Chica is one of my favorite restaurants to open in LA in the past couple of years. I love everything about it. For starters, it’s in a really cool space. A stone’s throw away from the USC campus (don’t worry; parking is in a fenced in and guarded parking lot), Mo-Chica resides in Mercado La Paloma Community Marketplace, a large converted warehouse, which has been transformed into a funky, vibrant, multi-cultural food court of sorts with several restaurants, a couple shops and an occasional art exhibition. The tables designated for Mo-Chica in the open air space are covered with plastic tablecloths. But do not be misled by the ultra-relaxed and casual atmosphere. The food at Mo-Chica is just as refined and sophisticated as any of the fanciest restaurants in Los Angeles.

Mo-Chica describes its cuisine as “Modern Peruvian” and its brilliant chef, Ricardo Zarate, has taken traditional Peruvian dishes to a whole new level. In terms of appetizers, I love the Causa (Peruvian Potato Salad) of the Day, especially when it’s Blue Crab Causa. Mo-Chica also has amazing Ceviche, which in the Peruvian fashion includes both giant kernels of white Peruvian corn as well as crispy toasted “corn nuts.” Both the Causa and Ceviche are must-haves when dining at Mo-Chica. My favorites main courses include Braised Oxtail with Barley-Huancaina Risotto, Lamb Shank with Canario Beans, Cilantro and Beer Sauce, and Mo-Chica’s take on Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice). The food at Mo-Chica is very reasonably priced and when I go with friends, I usually wind up ordering all of these things plus more. Given the food court locale, there is no alcohol, but they serve great exotic non-alcoholic drinks including a barley iced tea with herbs and ginger root, a passion fruit drink and my favorite, purple corn tea. Save room for dessert, especially the Tres Leches Cake, which is out of this world.

I am not alone in my love of Mo-Chica as Chef Zarate was recently named one of the ten best new chefs in America by Food and Wine Magazine. If you haven’t been yet, you are missing out. Mo-Chica is located at 3655 S Grand Ave. in Los Angeles.

UPDATE: Mo-Chica has moved to fancier digs (and an actual stand-alone restaurant space) Downtown, a couple doors down from Bottega Louie. The new address is 514 W 7th St, Los Angeles. In a nutshell: the food is still excellent, the menu is more extensive (they have Alpaca Stew!), it’s pricer of course, they can serve alcohol now and have awesome cocktails, and the decor is very cool. I do miss the little inexpensive place at Mercado La Paloma, but I love the new Mo-Chica and still highly recommend it. I’ve added photos below of the new location a few of the new dishes, including my favorite addition, Anticucho de Pulpo (Grilled Octopus with Roasted Potatoes and Jalapeno Sauce). FURTHER UPDATE Mo-Chica has unfortunately closed. If you’re looking for upscale modern Peruvian food, I recommend Mo-Chica’s sister restaurant, Picca Peru.

Sea Bass Ceviche with white Peruvian corn and "corn nuts"

Sea Bass Ceviche with white Peruvian corn and “corn nuts”

Chilled Peruvian Potato Salad with Crab

Chilled Peruvian Potato Salad with Crab

Lamb Shank with Canario Beans, Cilantro and Beer Sauce

Lamb Shank with Canario Beans, Cilantro and Beer Sauce

Chicken with Rice

Chicken with Rice

Old Digs

Old Digs

Anticucho de Pulpo (Grilled Octopus with Roasted Potatoes and Jalapeno Sauce)

Anticucho de Pulpo (Grilled Octopus with Roasted Potatoes and Jalapeno Sauce)

PIcarones -- Spiced sweet Potato & Kabocha Peruvian Beignets with Chancaca Reduction

Picarones — Spiced sweet Potato & Kabocha Peruvian Beignets with Chancaca Reduction

New Digs:  Front Room

New Digs: Front Room

New Digs:  Back Room

New Digs: Back Room

Mo-Chica on Urbanspoon


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