Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tea With Iris

It’s a hybrid of La Biennale di Venezia and Bouquets to Art in San Francisco in a very broad sense, only on a much, much smaller scale as befits our area.  Nonetheless, we art lovers here in the desert eagerly look forward to the biennial “A Day in the Garden” presented by the Palm Springs Art Museum to raise money for its Arts Council (“MAC”).  Yes, it is yet another charity event in the land of countless fundraisers.  But this one is different in concept and appeal.  Some fifteen to twenty members of MAC compete with one another to see who can create the most elaborate, the most interesting, the most exciting, the most creative themed luncheon table decorations and cuisine.  Picture a ladies outdoor luncheon gone wild on steroids and you will have some idea of what I mean.  Save for a few brave men, primarily it is the “ladies who lunch” crowd that attends.  And these women universally ignore the invocation to “dress casually and comfortably” and make the scene worthy of Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs or Fashion Week in Palm Desert.  Our table was themed “The Tea with Iris” in honor of our hostess’ tortoise named Iris.  Although our group included a number of fashion renegades, for some inexplicable reason we tended to follow the dress code this year.  Fortunately the vast majority of attendees did not.  So enjoy the eye candy and inspiration for your Spring and Easter entertaining.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Venison, Asparagus & 11,000 Virgins aka My Weekend in Los Angeles

A Room with a View

Venison, asparagus and eleven-thousand virgins.  That is one of the descriptions in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Program for Mahler’s 4th.  Given the fact that I am a foodie, music lover and art groupie, Mahler’s 4th was the perfect kick off for our 2012 LA Phil experiences.

We started our day off with a visit to one of our favorite restaurants in Little Tokyo – Lazy Ox Canteen.  At 11:30 on a Saturday morning, our expectation was that we would beat the crowds and enjoy a quiet, intimate lunch.  I always forget that even on a Saturday, restaurants of the quality of Lazy Ox are hopping, and we probably should have made a reservation in advance to ensure a table.  Fortunately, without reservation, they were able to accommodate our party of two and the festivities commenced.

Our tablemates next to us ordered Blistered Shishito Peppers with Mojama (salt cured tuna considered a delicacy in Spain).  The scent wafted to our table like a siren song.  I love it when you are seated next to foodies who don’t mind sharing – they must have seen the lust in my eyes as they proffered their peppers to us claiming the plate was too much for the two of them.  These peppers were smoky, slightly pickled and finished with a little heat.  (My apologies on no photo, I didn’t feel it appropriate to mooch off their plate and ask to photograph it.)

We had dinner scheduled at Patina before the concert, so a decision was made not to gorge ourselves on the insanely unique and delicious food.  Instead we were sensible in our ordering, which rarely happens.

To start a glass of Domaine Contat-Grange Pinot Noir and Muralhas de Monaco Vinho Verde were in order.  After a 2-hour freeway drive, lunch is always more relaxed with a libation.  Lazy Ox Canteen has an interesting, eclectic wine list by the glass or bottle that is sure to please your palate.

Caramelized Cauliflower
 A lengthy perusal of the menu, and a short debate, led to our selection of items.   First selection was the Caramelized Cauliflower with chile, pine nuts and mint with a hint of sherry vinegar.    The golden color glistened in our bowl, and made me wonder why I had not thought of caramelizing cauliflower before.   The chile added a nice round amount of heat to the dish, which was offset by the sherry vinegar which added a unique pickling effect to the cauliflower without being pickled.  Pine nuts provided a nice textural contrast.   Fresh mint offset the heat of the chile making it the perfect finish.

Grilled Cabbage Salad
Grilled Green Cabbage Salad arrived just as we finished off the last bite of cauliflower.  The Grilled Green Cabbage Salad was slightly wilted from the grill, but still retained a nice crispness.   The grilled cabbage was accented with piquillo peppers, juicy shrimp, and a scant amount of capers.  This is something I will definitely be playing around with at home to see if I can replicate it in my kitchen.

The one and only Lazy Ox Burger
 My intrepid sous chef has long been told by his friend about the legendary Lazy Ox Burger.  Typically he allows me to select our entire menu so I can experiment with flavors, ingredients and see what inspiration takes flight.  Not so this time, he was determined to try the Lazy Ox Burger with cantal cheese (one of the oldest French cheeses made from raw cow’s milk) and whole grain mustard, along with the obligatory home fries.  The bun was light, the beef juicy, and the cheese delectable.  The fries were crisp on the outside, and melt in your mouth on the inside.  Needless to say he was completely pleased with his selection and offered only the smallest nibble to sample.

Creamy Farro with Red Wine
Since I’ve been on a grain kick this winter, I tried the Creamy Farro with red wine, mixed herbs and pecorino.   It is the equivalent of a hearty risotto.   Mushrooms also graced the faro giving a textural like quality of calamari legs to the dish.   This was definitely a dish that serves as a good base to dress up to your personal satisfaction.

Lazy Ox Rice Pudding
Last but not least was the rice pudding.  It is light and refreshing.  Cleanses the palate and makes for a memorable end to a great meal.

One of the special things about Lazy Ox Canteen is that the menu does change and though there are the favorites such as the Lazy Ox Burger or Green Barley Salad always on the menu, it’s fun to discover the new dishes and influences with each visit. 

Charlie Chaplin at The Bradbury Building

Beautiful Iron Work at The Bradbury Building
After lunch we headed up over to do a quick tour of the Bradbury Building, and Grand Central Market with our ultimate destination MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) to take a gander at the exhibit of "Naked Hollywood Weegee in Los Angeles."   It’s on display until February 27, 2012.   There were some very interesting photographic techniques used, and I suspect some interesting statements about the time the photos were taken.

MF Gourmet - Grand Central Market

Produce at Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market Spices
Next stop was back to the hotel to prepare for dinner and Mahler’s 4th.   Our room was definitely a room with a view.  Hard to beat Walt Disney Concert Hall and MOCA, with the hills of Los Angeles in the background.

Nancy Rubens Sculpture outside MOCA and view from our room
 Dinner at Patina was exquisite as expected.   No photos, just the memories.  Admittedly that is because of the  "no photos rule" at Walt Disney Concert Hall and I’m fearful of being overcome by Dudamel’s presence and whipping my camera out to get a shot of him as that curly hair is bouncing around to perfect beat of the symphony.   The Mahler Project is a definite must if you are in the Los Angeles area.   It’s beautiful.

This is a room with a view!
The weekend was complete with breakfast at Dupar’s at The Grove, and a quick trip through Farmers Market.  See what you can do in less than 24 hours if you plan in advance!

Prior experience at Lazy Ox Canteen:

Lazy Ox Canteen:
241South Pedro, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Omni Los Angeles:
251 South Olive Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

LA Phil/Walt Disney Concert Hall: