Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Palm, Beverly Hills

Back in 1926, Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi wanted to open up a restaurant in New York City with a name that paid homage to their home town of Parma. Apparently during the registration process, the clerk misunderstood their accents, and "The Palm" was born.

Their excellence in food and customer service (before steak was on the menu, they'd run to the butcher up the block and cook one to order when that was what the customer wanted) made them extremely popular. Surf and Turf has since become one of the most popular items on the menu.

In the 1970s, with the third generation of the Bozzi and Ganzi family running the restaurant, it was doing so well that they opened a location in Washington, D.C. as well as a second restaurant in NYC. With its continued success, Wally Ganzi thought it was time to move west.

Since it opened its doors in West Hollywood in 1975, The Palm became an instant hit with celebrities and locals alike, and has kept its clients coming back for more. This past September, the lease was up, and the iconic restaurant opted for a zip-code change.

 Now located in the "90210," the new restaurant is a reinvention of itself, but maintains some of the famed old caricatures from the WeHo walls (a tradition that began in NY when artists paid their tabs  with art).

It continues to be run by the same families, and fourth-generation co-owner, Bruce Bozzi, Jr., has moved back to Los Angeles to man the helm at the Beverly Hills location.

We tried a few things off their cocktail list, but sticking with the classics was the way to go. They make a wicked good dirty martini with scrumptious bleu cheese-stuffed olives.

Sides like their famous creamed spinach and three-cheese au gratin are spectacular. We also loved their lobster bisque and I'm always a sucker for mushrooms. As to the main course, seafood lovers will not be disappointed with the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna Steak.

The Palm
267 N. Cañon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 550-8811

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cardamom: Fresh Indian Fare

After years over 30 years of feeding Los Angeles great Indian food in an old-school environment,  India Oven has been replaced by sleek and modern Cardamom, a delicious restaurant of contemporary Indian cuisine started by brothers-in-law Nasir Syed (former manager of India Oven), and Executive Chef Badrul Chowdhury.  Their "secret weapon" is Syed's uncle, who happens to be renowned UK chef (and creator of the world's largest onion bhaji), Manju Choudhury, serving as Consulting Executive Chef.

The menu is full of great offerings for meat lovers and vegetarians alike. An appetizer that I'm eager to go back and try is the Chutneywala Paneer: fresh cheese stuffed with spices and grilled in the tandoor. My mouth actually watered while I wrote that description.

Of the food I sampled, their tender, succulent tandoori dishes and spectacular sauces are real stand-outs. All of the chutneys have bold, vibrant flavor, but I was especially enamored of the mint chutney. I loved it with everything, but it was particularly delectable with their lamb fare.

Make sure to try the slightly sweet and super scrumptious Peshwari Naan, baked in the tandoor with coconut, sultanas, dates, and nuts. It pairs nicely with the savory dishes, or makes a perfect sweet-but-not-too-sweet end to a meal.

7233 Beverly Blvd. 
L.A., CA 90036
(323) 936-1000

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Asian Box: Fast, Fresh Food in Downtown L.A.

Asian Box, a small chain of healthy fast food restaurants, has just opened its fifth location right here in Downtown Los Angeles (there's a Burbank location, and three in the Bay Area). 

Chef Gracie Nguyen brings super-fresh vietnamese flavor to 5th and Figueroa. The small eatery specializes in quick, delicious, and healthy lunches with a dedication to environmental sustainability. 

You can build your own box by selecting your starch, protein, veggies, sauces, and 'box-toppers' like crispy shallots. If you need less choices, order one of their pre-designed boxes such as The Garden Box (Tofu on brown rice, served with extra steamed veggies, all toppers, with extra coconut curry and Asian Street Dust), or The Miss Jones (lemongrass pork and chilled noodles, sauce-tossed veggies, caramel egg, and all the toppers, with extra fish sauce). They also have a couple of handcrafted (non-alcoholic) drinks like the Eazy-E..."'Cause Arnold Palmer ain't from the streets of LA"

Everything we tasted was scrumptious and - it bears repeating - FRESH. All of the sauces are house made and I sampled every single one of them. Fans of serious heat will love the Hot Box It, though the spice and flavor of their Miss Jones' Sriracha sufficed for me. I especially enjoyed the tamarind sauce, and the coconut curry is my FAVORITE. They sent us home with a bottle of mystical "Asian Street Dust," which I've been sprinkling on everything from eggs to salads. Good stuff. 

All photographs by Jaime Torres Photography except the picture of the food boxes, provided courtesy of Bread & Butter Public Relations.

Asian Box No. 5
445 S Figueroa St. 
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 265-7955

Friday, September 19, 2014

Food with Benefits

Eating for C-CAP

For 25 years, Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), has provided scholarships, internships, job training, and the like to prepare at-risk students for college and careers in the restaurant industry. 

On Thursday, October 2, you can support the fine work of C-CAP plus take a sneak peek at Redbird, Neal Fraser's enthusiastically anticipated downtown restaurant in the rectory of the historic Vibiana Cathedral.

$150 will get you a tour and dinner (including wine) featuring Kale Salad with faro, delicate squash, parmesan and lemon zestBraised Short Ribs with black garlic polenta and succotash, and a tart for dessert. 

For an additional $25, you can attend the cocktail party beforehand that will feature Truffled Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with beef tartare, Dungeness Crab with curried cauliflower flan, Popcorn Shrimp with yuzu kosho aioli, and Vegetable Spring Rolls in black sesame soy paper with miso ginger sauce. Cocktail party only is $50. For tickets, click here. 

If you're more into a food-festival type scene, on October 19, Los Angeles Sweet & Savory Spectacular is to be a delicious fundraiser for C-CAP that will feature many of the area's top chefs from some of the tastiest restaurants in town. Participants include The Church Key, Hamasaku, Petrossian, and Chinois on Main among many others. In addition to tasty indulgences, guests will be treated to cooking classes, live demonstrations, and - perhaps most importantly to my readers - a craft beer, premium wine, and spirits tasting garden. 

Tickets for this Santa Monica event start at $100 if purchased in advance, $125 at the door. VIP tickets are $150 and offer an extra hour of culinary delight. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here

 Note there is a 25% discount if you choose to attend all of the events.

Dining for JBF

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) offers culinary scholarships, food industry and leadership awards, educational initiatives, and a whole lot more…like this Taste America event. To kick off the Taste Los Angeles weekend, a JBF benefit dubbed A Night of Culinary Stars will take over the aforementioned Vibiana on Friday, October 10, and will be hosted by the aforementioned Neal Fraser. 

There will be plenty of edible and liquid refreshments from local chefs during the cocktail reception, and what promises to be a spectacular multi-course dinner prepared by Aarón Sánchez, Nancy Silverton, Matt Molina, and Dahlia Narvaez . Tickets are $275. Click here to for more info or to purchase.  

C-CAP Fundraiser Cocktail Party and/or Dinner
Thursday, October 2, 6:00 p.m.
214 S. Main St., Los Angeles

Taste Los Angeles- A Night of Culinary Stars
Friday, October 10, 6:30 p.m.
214 S. Main St., Los Angeles

Los Angeles Sweet and Savory Spectacular
Sunday, October 19, 3 p.m. (VIP) 4 p.m. (general)
The Art Institute of California
2900 31st St., Santa Monica

photo courtesy of Ann Flower Communications

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare connotes many things, but one thing that you've probably never associated with his name is Bluegrass. Until now.

UnMasqued is a new theater company which "strives to create thought-provoking work through creative collaboration of multidisciplinary artists," founded by co-creative directors Ty Fanning and Drew Feldman.

In their inaugural production, UnMasqued has reinvisioned Much Ado About Nothing with a musical bent. Rather than soldiers returning to Messina after fighting in war, we are presented with The Arragons, a bluegrass band returning from a national tour to the venue that started it all, The Messina. This sets the stage for Shakespeare's text to be peppered with folk music by the multi-talented cast.

The space is a loft with folding chair seating, not a traditional theater. That, along with the performers' full utilization of the room and audience engagement, imparts a feeling of energetic guerilla theater for a head-bobbing, toe-tapping good time.  The large, vibrant cast works and plays well together, and it's easy to see the great potential in this fledgling company.

This production is at Pieter Performance Space in Lincoln Heights for one more weekend (Friday and Saturday at 8pm). Click here for tickets.  

Much Ado About Nothing
Pieter Performance Space
420 W. Avenue 33
Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, July 12, 2014

10 Days of Alcove

I can't believe that a decade has passed so fleetingly, but it is so, and Alcove is turning 10. To celebrate, the charming eatery / bar will be doing it up Wonka style with Golden Tickets hidden throughout napkins and - yes - Alcove Chocolate Bars. 

Over 40 tickets will be out there for the 10 Days of Alcove from Monday, July 14th- Wednesday, July 23rd, so your chances of winning are far better than Mr. Wonka would have made them. There are 10 great prizes up for grabs which include a wide range of yumminess. A number of people will win things like delicious chocolates or coffee and cake, and there are more than a few free meals to be given away…even dinner and cocktails for two with VIP seating for one of their outdoor movie nights!!! (They're sooooo much fun, but you have to get there sooooo early to get a table).

One lucky winner will get to have themselves "Immortalized on the Alcove Featured Cocktail Board." The bartenders will craft a cocktail based on your preferences, experiences, and all that good stuff. Nifty. 

The Grand Prizes are pretty great, too…two fortunate folks will win a private cocktail class for themselves and five of their friends with Big Bar manager, Aaron Alvarez. But the créme de la créme is Dinner in the Alcove Event Cottage for 10. That's you and nine of your friends getting dinner, drinks, and dessert in the adorable little cottage in the back.

So, starting  this Monday, eat all of your  meals at Alcove / Big Bar and use lots of napkins. Don't forget the chocolate bars for dessert. 

10 Days of Alcove
July 14 - July 23
1929 Hillhurst Ave. LA, CA 90027
(323) 644-0100

photo compliments of Eugene Lee and Big Bar

Friday, June 6, 2014


Alison England as the fabulous fiend, Zombina. 

At The Milwaukee Space Center, Major Malone (Frank Blocker) and his underling, Rick (Eric Sand) are ecstatic that they are about to launch a probe into outer space. The excitement builds as we meet their man-hungry secretary, Charlene a.k.a. Charlie (Lara Fisher), Billy (Alex Taber), the adorable delivery boy who has a huge crush on Charlie, and Major Malone's daughter and Jill-of-all-trades, Mary (Amelia Gotham).  When the handsome scientist, Trenton (Daniel Jimenez) appears to assist the launch and steal the ladies' hearts, it seems that everything will just be peachy keen. It's 1955...patriotism and the space program reign supreme and all is right with the world. That is, until an Unidentified Flying Object hovers over the beauty salon. It is then we meet the diabolical Zombina (Alison England), the vocal enchantress from Planet X determined to make all males do her bidding.

The Visceral Company keeps topping itself with production after fantastic production. Founders Dan Spurgeon and Drew Blakeman have an acute sense for bringing unique and entertaining shows into their theatre. The Los Angeles premiere of James Valco's Zombies from the Beyond is my favorite to date. Director (and artistic director of The Visceral Company) Dan Spurgeon clearly had a strong vision for this show and brought it to fruition.

Lara Fisher and Alex Taber as the dynamic duo, Charlie and Billy.

This show is nothing but a good time. From the start with the "Sepulchral Voice" of William Salyers and glow in the dark "credits" in "Tru-Life 3-D," its tongue-in-cheek style mimics an old B-movie, and the cast and audience alike have a great time with it. Fun choreography (by Ana Safar) moves us through the fittingly cheesy set (designed/constructed by Tommi Stugart, Angel Madrid, and Jason Thomas) where props and "special effects" are uproarious. And just wait 'til you meet The Zombettes. 

Alison England knocks it out of the park with her perfectly amazing voice and flamboyant characterization of Zombina. She makes it hard to imagine anyone else in that role. 

Daniel Jimenez sounds great and handles his role as Trenton with aplomb. 

Amelia Gotham brings poise, intelligence, and a lovely Donna Reed quality to her character of Mary. 

Alex Taber has one of my favorite numbers in the show, Atomic Feet. He dances beautifully and in my head I refer to him as Happy Feet. 

Lara Fisher is fantastic in her role as Charlie. She has my favorite number, Blast Off Baby, which she delivers in perfect pitch with absolute relish. In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that she's my sister, but that's not why I'm saying she's great in this's because she is.

Eric Sand is charming as Rick. When his character's secret is revealed, the transformation is terrific and his song, Big Wig, is really fun. 

Frank Blocker is a picture-perfect old-time military man. I could just see him harassing Major Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie

Amelia Gotham and Eric Sand have their boogie shoes on as Mary and Rick.

This is very much an ensemble piece, and everyone works beautifully together. 

Although we never see them, a large part of the show is the terrific live band (under the direction of Garth Herberg and Robert Finucane) that's hiding backstage. Karoly Kiss plays percussion, Karmann Hillman plays keyboards, and Robert Finucane plays keyboards and conducts.

Other hard working "behind the scenes" players include Stage Manager Rosie Santilena, Assistant Stage Manager Kirsten Turkle, Lighting Designer and Board Operator Joshua Silva, Costume Designer Pam Noles, Wig and Make-up Designer Dawn V. Dudley, Scenic Painter Jana Wimer, Follow Spot Operator Susie Santilena, Producer Drew Blakeman, and Assistant Producer Frank Blocker.

Zombies from the Beyond is in previews this weekend, officially opens Thursday, June 12, and will run on weekends through July 20. Check their website for exact dates and times.

                                  photos courtesy of The Visceral Company

The Lex Theatre
6760 Lexington Avenue
Now-July 20