“Foodie” is kind of a silly word and an overused word, but I don’t know how else to describe myself. I am someone who definitely enjoys and appreciates good food, and loves to talk about it. Or in my case photograph it and write about it. Having gone to culinary and pastry school, and having a son who is a chef; food is to my family what the Green Bay Packers are to a family in Wisconsin. It’s a passion and an obsession. So, when I find a restaurant that pays homage to good food, I feel compelled to share the experience with anyone reading this, hoping that they can share in my experience as well.
Fig & Olive is every foodie’s dream. They have three locations in New York and this West Hollywood location has been opened about 10 months. I’ll start off by telling you I liked everything about it. Naturally the first thing I noticed was the space itself. It’s extremely open and airy with soaring ceilings and warm Mediterranean colors. There are olive trees and rosemary plants throughout the space, and the decor is simple, contemporary and casual. It’s very tasteful.
As soon as my friend Gail and I were seated, we were brought a dish of fresh rustic bread and a trio of olive oils. The olive oils were from Spain, Australia and Tunisia and each one had it’s own distinct and unique flavor. When I opened the menu, quite honestly I found it hard to contain myself. Sometimes I’ll go to a restaurant and have trouble finding something I like on the menu. My problem was that I wanted everything on the menu. Check out the menu here, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
We started off with their Fig Gorgonzola Tartlet ($15) with prosciutto, walnut and arugula over a perfectly crispy puff pastry. Visually it was like art, with beautifully layered flavors of salty, sweet and cheesy. We also ordered the Branzino Ceviche ($8). Personally I’ve never been to a restaurant that served a ceviche with Branzino, (a member of the sea bass family found in northern Italy). The flavors were fresh and simple and let the Branzino shine through.
Gail and I split the Romaine and Endive Baby Beet Salad ($16) with apple, maple pecans and topped with a dollop of warm goat cheese and pistachios. The salad is dressed with raspberry sherry and Manzanillo olive oil. The beets were so sweet and the perfect compliment to the warm cheese and nut topping.
You guys know me now, so you know that I love dessert. All their desserts are made in-house and we had a tough time choosing which to pick. So I will say this to you. If you ever go in there, start with dessert. We ordered the Marzipan Cake with Olive Oil Gelato, Candied Olive Oil and Toasted Almonds ($9). Each component by itself was incredibly delicious, but as a composed dish, it should be illegal. The Caramelized Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream ($9) was also well worth the extra calories.
I love when a restaurant nails it. It doesn’t happen very often, and that’s probably why restaurants come and go. But Fig & Olive scored high on food, ambiance and service. That’s what the customer is paying for, and that’s what I got.
Fig & Olive, 8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, CA 90069 (310) 360-9100
She’s a grand old gal, and a ballsy chick. She’s elegant and iconic, yet gritty and dirty. She’s New York City. I just returned from a trip to the Big Apple, and few cities give me the adrenalin rush that New York does. I had never been to the city at Christmastime, and it was something that I just had to do.
The city moves at a frenetic pace. As a Southern Californian, we mosey, we get there when we get there. However, once I stepped foot on 5th Avenue I too got swept away by the energy of the streets. It was holiday time and the streets became just a sea of humanity. People coming at you in every direction. I wanted to be able to stop and take it all in, but I had to keep moving. I was in awe of the city’s architecture and of the diversity of its inhabitants. Shops, food, dazzling store windows; it made my head spin. My goal was to do a classic New York Christmas, to go to all those places I had seen in so many movies and television shows over the years. My first stop was of course, Rockefeller Center, because nothing is more iconic than the tree and the skating rink.
With my two friends Eva and Carol in tow, we decided to have lunch at The Sea Grill. It’s a sleek and modern restaurant, and the entire back of the space opens to the Rockefeller Center skating rink. Tourist-y yes, but it was everything I hoped it would be. It really oozed New York elegance; shiny silverware, sparkling glassware and crisp white tablecloths and napkins. The atmosphere in the restaurant was almost electric. There were waiters buzzing everywhere, holiday shoppers and suburban families stopping in for a festive lunch.
Okay, I was a little shocked when I looked at the prices on the menu, but it was New York City after all, and I knew the view and the ambience would not come cheap. We ordered the jumbo lump crab cakes with stone ground mustard sauce ($39). The server was quick to tell us that they were 90% lump crab meat. Hmmm, I’d never heard food described by percentage before, but that sounded impressive enough to me. The plate was certainly enough for three people to split, and yes there was plenty of crab meat in the dish, but it lacked flavor and overall they were just pretty bland.
We also ordered the baby lettuce salad with Fuji apple and fresh herbs in a mustard vinaigrette and the roasted beet salad with rucola, toasted walnuts and Manchego cheese with a citrus vinaigrette, both $14. Each salad was fresh and flavorful and lightly dressed .
We finished the meal with a piece of their Key Lime pie. Not too overly sweet, it was the perfect way to end the day. I wish I could have said the food was amazing, but the ambience and the experience was. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, very good. For me it was the quintessential New York experience. I’m so glad we ate there.
The Sea Grill, 19 West 49th Street, New York, NY 10020 (212) 332-7610
It was my friend Zonia’s birthday today and I was taking her out to lunch to celebrate. We were headed to a restaurant called Plate in Malibu right on the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s located in a non-descript strip center that it shares with a health food market, but it has a glorious view of the Pacific Ocean. As we park the car and walk toward the restaurant, we both stop and take in a deep breath of that salty, ocean air. Ah, we’re relaxed already! I’ve been to Plate several times and I keep coming back for that simple reason, the food tastes really good.
The restaurant is not very big, and the decor is minimalist and zen-like. The entire front of the space is glass with an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean which naturally enhances the dining experience.
I’m an iced tea aficionado, so I’m very impressed with their exotic selection of organic iced teas. Zonia ordered the raspberry, and I got the ginger pear. I’ve never seen tea served like this before, but the tea steeps in a little pitcher and then the waiter pours it over the bottom pitcher of ice. Next time I would share the drink with another person as it’s certainly enough for two, and because it was expensive.
I’m a burger girl. If I had to pick my last meal, it would be a burger and fries. But like everyone else these days, I’m trying to make healthier choices and eat less red meat, sooooo I opt for the turkey burger (pictured above, $12.50). It was just as satisfying as any beef burger I’ve ever had. The burger is charbroiled and topped with fresh, organic lettuce, tomato, peppers and avocado. Buns are important, and this one was perfect as it didn’t fall apart as you ate the burger. Their fries are fried in rice oil and they were light and crunchy.
Plate touts itself as healthy and organic, and that was evident in the curry chicken salad ($12.00). Everything tasted so fresh. The spice of the curry, the sweetness of the papaya and the bitterness of the greens was a lovely layering of flavors, and the toasted croutons added a nice textural contrast. You can tell I really liked this dish.
So what’s a birthday without cake. You didn’t think we were going to leave without dessert did ya? Their rendition of flourless chocolate cake was light and not too sweet, and nicely plated as well. A great ending to a very enjoyable lunch.
The service at Plate was professional and attentive. Parking can be a problem at other restaurants along the PCH, but there is plenty of free, rooftop parking. It’s stress-free dining at it’s best. Plate is opened seven-days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I appreciate that they use natural, organic and locally harvested ingredients; free-range chicken, cage free eggs and meats from known sources. Come on people, if you’re dining out, these things should be important to you.
Plate, 22601 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265 310-317-6800
What is it that makes this world such a beautiful place? To me, it’s the people and their cultures. The diversity of how people look, their language, clothing, traditions and their food. Los Angeles is a city that embraces diversity. I often feel as though I don’t need to get on a plane and travel thousands of miles to experience the richness of a different culture, all I need to do is go out my front door.
Today I did go out my front door with two friends who came from cultures very different from mine. My friend Zonia was born in Hong Kong and was raised in Peru. She emigrated to America with her family in the 70′s. My other friend Teresa is from the Yucatan in Mexico, and she came to the U.S. in the early 80′s. And here we meet in the San Fernando Valley of all places.
Today’s destination was Mercado La Paloma. It’s a marketplace at 37th & Grand in downtown Los Angeles. It houses several restaurants and shops as well as classes and community events. It’s also the home to Mo-Chica, Zonia’s favorite Peruvian restaurant. I didn’t need to board a plane today, because the food at Mo-Chica took me on a far-away journey. These dishes were like nothing I ever had. Sophisticated and polished on one hand, yet tasted like someone’s Peruvian grandmother had been toiling over a hot stove for hours.
I know nothing about Peruvian food, so Zonia does the ordering for me, Teresa and Carlos. For appetizers, she orders the Ceviche del Dia and the Causa del Dia (a Peruvian potato salad). Each dish is beautifully plated and the ceviche tastes as though the fish had just been caught that morning. The presentation says 4-star restaurant, but the flavor says mama’s kitchen.
For the main course Zonia ordered the Braised Oxtail Risotto with barley huancaina. This is the ultimate in Peruvian comfort food. How did Chef Ricardo Zarate create such complex flavors; probably with great skill…and love.
Jorge, our server who did his job with great enthusiasm, brings out the rest of our entrees. Seco de Cordero is a lamb shank with canario beans and salsa criolla, in a cilantro beer sauce. It was beautiful just to look at, but the pleasure was in the eating. The meat just fell off the bone on this one.
The final dish of this most amazing meal was the Arroz con Pollo; chicken breast with spring onions, salsa madre and sauteed rice. This dish could be served in any elegant restaurant, yet it had the flavor and heartiness of street food.
Mo-Chica is a gem in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. The talented Chef Zarate shared his skills and his culture with us. And it’s right out my front door. How convenient.
Mo-Chica Peruvian Restaurant, 3655 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90007