To celebrate Miss A’s performance at her gymnastics meet in Las Vegas last weekend, we hit Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR on the Vegas Strip (the “GR” in the name is chef’s initials that fit conveniently into the word, sans the “e” of course)! GReat BurGRs and even GReater all-around weekend! (See what I did there? Using the word “all-around”
saluting the gymnastic theme of the weekend!)
Stepping out onto the balcony, I surveyed the rectangular main gardens below and thought how awesome it was to be back in Rome. But wait, it was actually Malibu and my first visit to the Getty Villa (*EDITORS NOTE: this was a family outing with the kiddies and their cousins; the real Rome was pre-children!)
Adjacent to the Getty Museum, The Getty Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house in Herculaneum, Italy. The building was constructed in the early 1970s by architects who worked closely with J. Paul Getty to develop the interior and exterior details. Inside on two floors are antiquities collections and changing exhibitions as well as outdoor herb gardens and fountains. The cousins particularly enjoyed the Family Forum room for a little hands-on discovery: role-playing with foam swords, shields and headgear in front of a projection screen, and using dry erase markers to decorate replica urns and bowls.
Also worth noting is the indoor/outdoor Café that serves casual Mediterranean-inspired fare (beer & wine are also available). I was compelled to relay my compliments to the kitchen after lunch: my Villa Burger ($14.95) with crispy onions, Emmental Swiss, sherry gastrique, arugula, roasted garlic & pepper aioli on a Brioche Bun (with a side of shoestring garlic fries) was one of the best gourmet burgers I have ever had.
To reserve a time and arrange for your complimentary tickets, go to http://www.getty.edu/visit/cal/index.html (parking is $15).
Paired with a full-service butcher shop where guests can order custom cuts or choose from a variety of grab-n-go fare next door, Belcampo Restaurant features rustic, meat-centric California cuisine and farm-inspired craft cocktails. On this “dating anniversary” occasion, Irene and I shared a grilled beef heart app, a lamb burger, a French dip “éclair” with bone broth jus, and the roasted brussels sprouts – all umami to the max.
The Genwa dinner date was arranged by our good friends who love to “park” themselves at a good Korean BBQ place. Seated at a table with a state-of-the-art, smokeless gas grill set in the middle, we cooked up a selection of thinly sliced cuts of meat, the bulgogi being my personal favorite.
I’ve been to a handful of Korean BBQ spots but never have I seen such an array of the small accompaniments that are placed around the circular grill as here (more than two dozen) – from kimchi (fermented Napa cabbage) to lotus root and Japchae (stir-fried glass noodles). The Bibimbap (sizzling rice) was also the best I’ve had thus far. Then there’s a unique touch when the check arrives: lollipops on long sticks for each guest (that we brought home for T, A & X).
Our clan is a good fit for Urban Plates and Lyfe Kitchen – much like the two fast-casual restaurants are well-suited for the health conscious, entrepreneurial residents they serve at The Runway mixed-use complex at Playa Vista.
Ordering, paying, grabbing a table, digging into your savory food, and splitting as soon as you’re done is a great set-up that is growing in appeal for me (there’s also Hop Doddy Burger Bar just a half block down from these two spots that utilizes the same approach). Urban Plates has various stations where you slide your tray cafeteria-style and watch the cook prepare hand-tossed salads, hand-carved sandwiches, flatbreads and other various comfort foods. Like Hop Doddy we’ve been here twice and chose communal high-top tables for our size group, sampling each other’s dinners both times: Moroccan Chicken Braise, Asian Chicken Salad, BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, Margherita Pizzette, mac & cheese and an Urban Kids Plate with grilled steak, one hot or cold side and a chargrilled focaccia.
And it was 10 enthusiastic thumbs up for Lyfe Kitchen, where the food and drink is a bit more organic. Co-owned by Top Chef Masters alum Art Smith (we tried LK for the first time at its Culver City location), my Faye’s Grilled Cheese ranks up there with one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had, with its house-made pimento cheese, thinly sliced tomato, arugula and sprinkled with parmesan (459 calories/620 mg sodium); at six bucks, this was a good value so I went for the sweet potato fries on the side for $2 more. A varied menu features everything from “Shareables” like Spicy Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps and an Edamame Hummus Plate to “Handhelds & Sides” like Mahi Fish Tacos and Roasted Brussels & Squash. “Little Lyfers” can choose from a handful of dishes including pancakes and “Unfried Chicken Strips.”
Talk about a place that has it all – inventive food, excellent service, laid-back atmosphere, hip local vibe – Superba Food+Bread (yes I’m about to go there) is superb-a.
We took Irene here for an early breakfast to kick off her festivities-filled Mother’s Day and it was a hit from start to finish: service was spot-on and our server gifted Irene with a house-made bag of granola to mark the special day at the end of the meal.
All of our uniquely-conceived dishes were equally delicious, including a Croque Madame featuring the sunnyside egg set into the top of the bread and boasting a smoked ham, gruyere and tomato bechamel mix, and a “Hangtown Fry” with soft scrambled eggs, mushrooms, onions, bacon, potatoes, chilis and a crispy oyster.
We sat at a corner banquette (the space is divided into indoor/outdoor dining areas separated by a garage door) with an outward view of all the action going on under the high, exposed-beam ceiling; for guests on the go, there’s a baked goods-filled case along the south side of the restaurant where they can quickly choose a baked-on-premises item, grab a cup of coffee and park themselves at communal seating in the front instead of getting table service.
Locals from the neighboring sidestreets must love walking over to this cool spot (there’s also another location at The Point in El Segundo).
Two “tasty,” two very “enterprising” and one just a “hop” skip and a jump away — that definitely sums up a handful of recent dining out experiences for the Lippmans:
Ingo’s Tasty Diner (www.ingostastydiner.com) Our first visit here was for Irene’s birthday with the kiddies and it was so very tasty that we returned a couple of weeks later for a Happy Hour at their bar counter. Seated there, we sipped on a trio of bourbon, gin/cucumber and tequila concoctions and pointed out two accoutrements not normally glimpsed behind the counter of a traditional diner: a rotisserie chicken roaster and Lazy Susan displays with mini bottles of bitters, etc., that the bartenders use for their cocktail recipes. Love the cozy atmosphere and dim lighting; at our birthday-outing booth, we dug into a white fish club sandwich (me), a Paris Texas burger with bacon and cheddar (Xander), tuna tartare (Miss A), “Greek-Town” style thin-shaved leg of lamb (Irene) and chicken noodle soup (Troy, who was dealing with the aftermath of a tooth extraction), all items ranging from $9 to $17.
Enterprise Fish Company (www.enterprisefishco.com) Located between Main and Pacific just north of Rose Ave., this 35+ year-old seafood restaurant is housed in a historic 1917 brick building. We also hit this place twice, each time with the kiddies. On the first visit, we raised $1 oyster shooter toasts to Troy’s 12th birthday among other reduced price happy hour bites. When our check arrived, we were handed a sealed envelope with instructions not to open until we returned for our next visit. Enter the “enterprising” aspect: after finishing our lunch (including a delicious tuna melt, a spicy shrimp po-boy sandwich and hearty Manhattan clam chowder), the manager opened our envelope to reveal the prize – 15% off our check (no such luck on snagging the top cash discount of $100!).
Hopdoddy Burger Bar (www.hopdoddy.com) A burgers and beer spot in the fast-casual style that is so popular these days (order, choose a seat and the food is brought to your table), Hopdoddy satisfies on all levels. The burgers (“from humanely-raised cows, never ever given growth hormones or antibiotics” says the menu) are a very nice quality on egg buns, and the price is right: the men had burgers (my “Classic” with the add-on of a fried egg); the girls split an ahi tuna burger with pickled ginger, sprouts and honey wasabi that was equally solid (there are also lamb, turkey and vegetarian selections), and we all shared a large order of Kennebec fries that spilled out from a paper cone onto a metal mini cookie sheet. Some of us dipped our fries into the BBQ/ketchup called “Sassy Sauce” that came with the burgers (priced from $7 to $12.50). There are also three kinds of dinner salads and a variety of shakes. Irene and I washed our meals down with a beer – my El Segundo Blue House IPA served in a frosty schooner. Gotta go back to try the “Little Larry” – a mini-classic frozen margarita topped with Grand Marnier. This place is a definitely a keeper — and just a short drive south from us in Playa Vista.
By Troy Lippman, 6th Grader
We recently had a cheese tasting day in my French class at the end of our food unit, where we learned some of the basic/common French foods. We tried six cheeses: Comte, Emmental, Bucheron, Roquefort, Brie and Camembert. There were also sides including bread, grapes and apple cider. My personal favorite was the Comte because it was delicious and had a delicate taste. I really enjoyed all of the cheeses except for the Roquefort because it was very smelly and the taste was pungent (we rated all the cheeses on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best).
Overall it was great tasting cheeses I wasn’t familiar with and had lots of fun doing it. I recommend it for all families out there – you will have a lot of fun too! In fact, I had a cheese tasting party with my family on Valentine’s Day because they loved the story I told them about the one in my class and how I had so much fun with it.
Viva la fromage!
Top: The Lippmans’ first-ever “Snackadium” creation for the big game: guacamole field with sour cream yardlines, queso dip & salsa end zones and mini Slim Jim goal posts fashioned together with toothpicks — surrounded by bite-size salami & cheese on a baguette, a trio of veggies and assorted chips (in football-shaped bowls, of course, and raised up with foam building blocks for that stadium seating effect!)…And since most venues seem to have corporate sponsors these days, we made In ‘N Out Burger ours.
Middle: Field view close-up
Bottom: Aerial view from the Goodyear iPhone
Immediately after checking in via tablet at the entrance to MINIUSA’s downtown L.A. HQs and grabbing a smokey whiskey cocktail from Greenbar Craft Distillery (made from hand-pressed organic produce), I knew we were in for a unique gathering introducing the new Clubman series to an invitation-only crowd.
Inside, it was a salute to local craftsmanship; with a jazz ensemble providing a soundtrack at the far end of the space, guests visited a mix of L.A.-based artisans’ exhibits, including Graf + Lantz and Chocovivo. Irene did a chocolate tasting at the latter and had monogrammed leather luggage tags made at the former that she picked up at the end of the event. Meanwhile, I sampled beers from Eagle Rock Brewery and browsed some furniture made from repurposed/reclaimed materials by Fort Goods.
“This is an event about sharing not just what we make but why we make it, about being inspired and passing it on. A Mini isn’t just made, it’s crafted,” said an event promo.
Indeed, the “Mini Reinvented” event was a story about craftsmanship, “not a story told by a brand to its consumers but one told by a community to its members,” as the promo went on to say. “It’s about turning a day of work into a work of art.”
After about an hour of mingling and sampling a variety of circulated hors d’oeuvres, we moved to the showroom, where the Clubman was unveiled. Irene posed a few options-related queries to one of the Mini reps and a few moments later I spotted her looking a little too comfortable behind the wheel of a sporty Mini Cooper convertible.
This is what you would call one of your quaint neighborhood gems. Located in Downtown El Segundo, Deluca Trattoria served up excellent Italian food while my colleague Brian Simon played covers on the piano during one of his ongoing Saturday night gigs.
The kiddies felt like VIPs from the moment we were shown to our table with the “Reserved” sign on it to our Shirley Temple and Sangiovese toast that kicked off the meal. Kids’ pasta dishes were great (and why wouldn’t they be? Pasta is right in the restaurant’s web address: delucapasta.com) – pesto/pine nut for Xander and meatballs and spaghetti for Troy and Athena. I ordered the Frutti de Mare pizza that had big helpings of scallops, calamari and grilled shrimp. Awesome (mom was at a school fundraiser). But I was only able to eat half of it after going with an off-menu app that Brian had recommended called Pizza Bones – a homemade breadstick bursting with garlic and parmesan served with a terrific, slightly spicy tomato sauce for dipping.
For dessert, we shared the Cannoli Alla Taormina – those mini rolled pastries stuffed with ricotta, dark chocolate and orange-peel cream.
Authentic Italian doesn’t get any better than this, especially with Brian’s live music complementing in the background with crowd pleasers from Coldplay, U2, Joe Jackson and more…
Located at the new THE POINT shopping complex, TFK changes its menu seasonally to source the best ingredients for its dishes (and never any processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, MSG or artificial sweeteners). While a variety of salads, pizzas and sandwiches are offered, fish is the star here: for starters, Irene and I shared the Wild Caught Albacore Tataki with Snap Pea, Avocado, Radish, Carrot-Miso & Yuzu Dressing ($12), and the Edamame Dumplings, Daikon Radish & White Truffle Oil ($10). Irene’s main protein was the Sustainable Steelhead with Cauliflower Stir Fry, Gai Lan, Shiitake, Chili & Tamari ($24), while I chose the featured fish, a delicious Miso Cod with Shiitake & Asparagus (market price). From the Libations, Presses & Punches column, the mixologists are on their game because Irene’s Cucumber-Citrus Skinny Margarita ($10) and my Cherry Bourbon Sour ($11) were perfection in a fancy glass. For dessert, we ooohed and ahhhed over our gluten-free, vegetarian Flourless Chocolate Cake (72% Cocoa, Vanilla Ice Cream, Almond Butter & Caramel, $7).
There’s also a diverse Kids Menu; shortly after our El Segundo dinner, we took the kiddies to the Santa Monica location for lunch and they loved it. Veggie Grill veterans, T, A & X enthusiastically dug into their Turkey Sloppy Joe ($6), chopped salad (Romaine, Broccoli, Carrot, Cherry Tomato, Radish, Mozzarella & Dill Ranch Dressing, $5), and chopped salad, respectively.
We also took the kiddies on the Sausal outing. Located on Main Street in downtown El Segundo, Sausal is named after Rancho Sausal Redondo (Round Willow Ranch), the vast farmstead that once encompassed El Segundo and most of the South Bay. Their “Nuevo Rancho” cuisine blends traditional Hispanic ingredients with contemporary farmers’ market fare, with the menu borrowing inspiration from the foundational elements of Rancho cooking: wood fire, smoke and slow-roasting.
My Beef & Goat Birria ($19.50) embodied the soul of this restaurant: a rustic bowl of slow-simmered, mixed meats in a chili broth bath that could be eaten with a spoon or scooped out to construct tacos with the tortillas, cilantro-onion relish, and jicama slaw. Irene’s choice of entrée was even more umami than mine: Pork Chili Verde with Sweet Corn Elote ($18.50) with monterey jack cheese, chipotle cream, fancy pico, lime & tortillas. Xander raved about his Beef Brisket Barbacoa ($11.50) — long cooked beef, black beans, cotija crumbles, red brick arbol salsa, frizzled onions served on two tacos — while Athena also chose wisely with her Crispy Fish tacos: beer-battered wild-caught pacific lingcod, fancy pico, crushed avocado, charred tomato crema (also $11.50). And grilled salmon lover Troy had his go-to item.
Apps (Angry Mussels: house chorizo, garlic, chili broth, hominy w/grilled sourdough, $18; Fresh Ceviche Mixto: wild Mexican white shrimp, calamari, lingcod, lime, cumin, sweet corn, citrus, celery, yellow habanero salsa, $11.50; Oxtail Picadillo Empanadas: spiced meat pies in flaky buttery crust, tomatillo sauce, $12) and dessert (Raspberry-Stuffed Empanaditas w/Mexican Lime Icing and a Bittersweet Chocolate Fandango w/Vanilla Milk Gelee, $7.50 each ) were big hits as well so this neighborhood corner restaurant was an overall festive experience.
“Another 365-brand cracker round with spicy ahi tuna, anyone?”
While not your typical weekend breakfast item (well, maybe not so unusual in L.A.),
the poke salad special was calling out to us, so we got a little to-go container, grabbed a
box of crackers, chose an al fresco hightop and dug in this past Sunday morning.
Actually, the tuna mixture has a component that says breakfast: tiny orange smelt eggs.
So forget the cornflakes and pass the poke!