Tuesday, May 27, 2008

LA's Hottest Restaurant

When I made my plans to head south to Mexico, I included a one-day stopover in Los Angeles to see my daughter & her husband Mike, and to see my friend Nancy Silverton’s hot new restaurant Osteria Mozza in Hollywood [ did I mention she is partners in the restaurant with uber-chef Mario Batali—it is his first restaurant in Los Angeles], and Joe Bastianich.

Nancy is one of America’s best Pastry Chefs, and kick-started the artisan bread movement in this country when she opened with then-husband famous Chef Mark Peel their restaurant Campanile, and the legendary La Brea Bakery. She has authored numerous cookbooks on pastries and breads.

Mark Peel, Nancy Silverton and I all worked together at Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica in 1979. Nancy was our first cashier, not yet working in pastries; Mark was the nighttime sous-chef; and I was a waiter begging to get into the kitchen to apprentice. [And Mark was married to another woman, not Nancy].

Nancy soon began working with Jimmy Brinkley, Michael’s pastry chef, as his assistant. She got Michael to send her to France to study at the famous school for pastries Lenôtre.…and when she came back, she became our pastry chef, Mark left to work at Chez Panisse in Berkeley to learn pizza making Alice Waters style—[and then became Wolfgang Puck’s first chef at the original Spago]—and Nancy became Spago’s first pastry chef. Mark got a divorce and he and Nancy married.

When Mark left Michael’s, I had moved from nighttime line cook to being Lunch Chef, I got the opportunity to become the nighttime sous chef, under head chef Jonathan Waxman.

I had heard that it was 6 weeks in advance to get a reservation at Osteria Mozza, and since I was leaving in less than 2 weeks I wondered if Nancy would be able to accommodate a party of 8 of us on such short notice. When I called she was eating a “tuna sandwich” she told me, and laughed out loud when I asked if I could bring a party of 8 to dinner on a Saturday night.

Mariel & Michael, David Snyder


.....She told me “we only take parties up to 7 people.”

Knowing her achilles heal is handsome men, I decided to let drop that good friend, Lucky Vanous [he of the famous Diet Coke commercial—where women elbow each other out of the way to see the hot construction worker take off his shirt before quaffing a Diet Coke] would also be coming to dinner with us.

Gordon Naccarato, Lucky Vanous, Mariel Schneider

I am teasing [only a bit] about Nancy as she also knows Lucky and has helped him with some advice on his latest venture—Lucky Devils—his great little restaurant on Hollywood Blvd. near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. He serves the absolute best milkshake I have ever had—a Toasted Pecan Shake made with rich custard, and plenty of fresh toasted pecans. Amazing. Jonathan Gold, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for food writing has described Lucky’s place as having a delicious burger as good as the cult favorite “Father’s Office”, and that he has created a menu that guarantees no one will ever having a body that looks like Lucky’s. They also make amazing Guinness Milkshakes—that are astoundingly delicious.

Anyway, when Nancy heard Lucky was coming she relented and walked right over to the maître d' and handed him her cell phone and told him to give us a table at whatever time I wanted. Later I found out that the party of 7 rule is because that is all that can comfortably fit around their largest table.

Our other dinner guests besides Lucky were to be my daughter Mariel, her husband Michael Schneider, Warren Coulter, Mary Beth Schulte, and David Snyder.

The place was jammed to the rafters—a classic room that reminded me of New York, with contemporary touches, dark woodwork, grey blue teal walls, handsome bar with high-top marble stands for standing, and next to that

As we elbowed our way to the bar, the noise was exuberant/deafening… [ the only thing worse than a noisy restaurant—is a quiet one]. This place is a smash success.

Warren Coulter was already waiting in the bar sipping a drink. As we waited for the rest of our party to arrive we ordered some cocktails and red wine by the glass from the all Italian list [some 35 pages long]. Thank God they are extremely well-versed in wine and were able to get us some delicious choices…including the Magnum of Aragon '04 [$145]we ordered with dinner.

Warren used to manage restaurants in New York City for friend/chef Jonathan Waxman, and at one time worked as an assistant for Diane Sawyer at ABC. The he moved to Aspen to manage my restaurant Gordon’s where we became instant best friends. Warren has perfect taste in all things, and it is silly to disagree with him, as he is always right. And he is extremely funny! He moved to LA after my restaurant closed, and got back into the TV business where he worked for Big Ticket Television that makes Judge Judy, and Moesha to name a couple.

He now co-owns and manages a fabulous high-end furniture business called the Squires Company located in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, and is in 10 showrooms around the country including Wayne Martin Showroom in the design center in Seattle and Portland. They sell through interior designers.

David Snyder, Gordon Naccarato, Warren Coulter
Mary Beth Schulte is as extremely gifted Chef who has worked at some of the best restaurants in LA. We met rather tragically after one of my chefs, Paulie, from the infamous Monkey Bar, died of a drug overdose. He had been a private chef for Jack Nicholson before he came to work for me.

A friend of M.B.'s gave her a call and she immediately went to work on the grill--filling Paulie's shoes--without even so much as having a second to learn our menu and performed flawlessly-- and we became instant friends. Mary Beth too has perfect taste—in clothing, food, & style and has helped me open several restaurants—including The Shed [now LA's Best Restaurant Lucques], The Beach House at Purdy, and Pacific Grill. Mary Beth currently resides in La Jolla, CA where she continues to cater to high-end clients such as Sylvester & Jennifer Flavin Stallone, and does restaurant and menu consulting for select clients--including Lucky Vanous at Lucky Devils. She also sells a line of high-end cosmetics called Seriesse International also owned by Sylvester Stallone & Jennifer Flavin.

David Snyder arrived from Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Jenny [daughter of famed movie director Norman Jewison]and their children. David worked as executive head of creative content for over 10 years for Walt Disney Television International for many years in London, and has created and produced hundreds of hours of animation, live-action programming and documentaries for Walt Disney Co. His programs have won numerous awards, including a handful of BAFTAs [British Academy of Film and Television Arts].

David now has his own production company Brandissimo Inc. that specializes in creating an emotional connection between brands and kids. They create and produce content to educate and entertain young audiences. His series include: Harry & His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs; Flockhearts; and Bigfoot presents Meteor & the Mighty monster Trucks was the top-rated series on Discover Kids, and was nominated for the 2007 Emmy Award.

Lucky Vanous, Gordon Naccarato, Warren Coulter
...Nancy sent us out several complimentary dishes to try on the house:

Fresh Ricotta & Egg Raviolo with browned butter [$18]. When you cut into the large raviolo it basically gushes golden yolk that mingles sensually with the pool of browned butter sauce. A very sexy and delicious dish-- tt was gone in about three seconds, with moans heard all-around the table.

Mary Beth ordered Nancy's version of a chopped salad: Ciliegine with iceberg, salame, pepperoncino & green olive tapenade [$15]. Next came the Garganelli with Ragu Bolognese [$18] also delicious.

David ordered the Orecchiette with sausage & Swiss chard [$18]. Everyone passed their dish around as it was too delicious not to share with everyone else at the table.

I decided as a starter to get the Burricotti with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants & mint pesto [$15]. The dish was beautiful and came served atop crostini...I hated to share, it was so good. Burricotti is fresh mozzarella filled with ricotta, and was delicious beneath the tender artichokes. The golden raisins provided a touch of sweetness, against the luscious cheese, the pine nuts a nice toasty crunch. Luscious.
Mariel & I ordered the Linguine with Clams, pancetta & spicy Fresno chilies [$19]. The dish was a wild tangle of al dente noodles and clams. My one mild disappointment with the pasta course, the clams were on the large side and were very gritty with sand, not small, tender and delicious like we are used to here in the NW with our wonderful Manila clams.

Lucky ordered the Crisp Duck al Mattone with pear mostarda & Brussels sprouts [$29]. It came served unadorned except for a lemon wedge, on a wood block cutting board, with the brussels sprouts served on the side. This duck confit was delicious and tender, falling off the bone, and the fruit mustard a nice touch. More moans...

For dessert we tried the Crostata and the Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes olive oil gelato & rosemary brittle [$11] served as miniatures, the cakes reminded me of madeleines, but unfortunately were a tad dry, for being made with olive oil. The olive oil gelato seemed sweet and salty and good, and the rosemary brittle beautiful and unusual.
The Fig & Strawberry Jam Crostata with Meyer lemon crema & saba $11 this was a delicious tart with a sweet crust, jammy interior --the lemon cream was really more of a panna cotta...wonderful.
Can't wait to eat here again. Thanks Nancy for all the extra treats you sent us. [Plus I haven't tried Pizzeria Mozza next door, which is Nancy/Batali's more casual venue, which my daughter assures me is wonderful!]
The entire bill with wine, and a few other dishes not shown came to: $675.00 including tip for our party of 7, which seems to me to be tremendously good value for cooking and execution at this level from two of the country's best chefs.

Also when in LA be sure and try Lucky's restaurant--delicious food and the most amazing milkshakes you will ever taste!


Lucky Devils
6613 Hollywood BlvdHollywood, CA 90028
Phone: (323) 465-8259
Osteria Mozza
Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: (323) 297-0101
The Esquire Company
David Snyder
Seriesse International by Sylvester Stallone & Jennifer Flavin
contact Mary Beth Schulte

LA's Best Restaurant?

When I lived in Los Angeles in the 90's, I was Chef for awhile at a charming little restaurant called The Shed.

Bernie Taupin--Elton John's lyricist--and Bernie's [now ex] wife Stephanie owned The Shed.

Famous & talented LA Chef Suzanne Goin and her partner, Caroline Stine fell in love with the space and kept nagging the owners about selling until after several months they named a price the owners couldn't refuse--bought the restaurant’s lease-- and I was out of a job.

Her restaurant Lucques [pronounced Luke] is named after the delicious French green olive. and was recently named the best restaurant in Los Angeles, by Los Angeles magazine.

On my way South to Mexico, I was stopping over in LA for a power-day of eating, and to see my daughter who lives in Brentwood with her husband Michael Schneider. I was invited to lunch by long-time dear friends from Aspen, Herb Hamsher, and his partner Jonathan Stoller. They wanted to meet my daughter's husband Mike , and included their business partner’s and also longtime good friends of mine: actress Judith Light and her husband, actor/writer Robert Desiderio.
Judith Light of course has captivated audiences worldwide since her portrayal of Angela Bower on the hit comedy series Who's the Boss? Her award-winning career has spanned a diversity of roles in television, film, and a devastatingly real performance in the touring production of the smash stage hit WIT.

Judith's television career began with her two-time Best Actress Emmy award-winning turn as Karen Wolek on One Life to Live. She can currently be seen on the highly acclaimed ABC hit Ugly Betty in the role of Claire Meade, and on NBC's long-running drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit in the recurring role of Supreme Court Judge Elizabeth Donnelly.

Herb is a psychologist by trade, and is the most spiritual person I know.

He does a tremendous amount of work raising money for AIDS charities, and mentoring gay youth as a board member of the Point Foundation. And for the last twenty years, Herb has worked with the actress and AIDS/ Human Rights activist, Judith Light. With his partner, Jonathan, he has for a long time managed not only her career but also that of her husband, actor Robert Desiderio. The four of them have a production company, Tetrahedron Productions.

Judith's husband, Robert, has served as President of Project Angel Food which provides daily meals for people home-bound or disabled by HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses.

I couldn’t wait to see Herb…we had a nice table on the charming enclosed patio, vines clinging to the walls, potted olive trees here and there.

The smart Lunch Menu has been carefully edited, and is as well-pruned as those olive trees. There are only 5 Entrees from which to choose, and only 4 starters. Needless to say--the food was wonderful.

[photo below front row: Robert Desiderio, Jonathan Stoller, Herb Hamsher, Mariel Schneider, Michael Schneider. Standing behind: Judith Light, Gordon Naccarato]

My daughter Mariel works for Innovative Artists in the commercial voice-over department directly with some of the top animation actors in the biz. They represent everyone from Nicollette Sheridan of Desperate Housewives to actress Faye Dunaway. Her husband Mike works for Coast Asset Management a hedge fund company in Santa Monica. He is a director on the portfolio management team.

Several of us started with the arugula and blood orange salad, with dates, parmesan and almonds [$13].
A complimentary bowl of roasted almonds in their skins arrive at the table with the eponymous Lucques olives.

I ordered the chicken saltimbocca, with soft polenta, sautéed greens & caper brown butter. [$16].The chicken was nicely breaded, super crisp and was stuffed with a good prosciutto and cheese. Unbelievably delicious. However the soft polenta beneath the chicken was bland, not as well-seasoned as I would have liked, but that is a minor complaint.

The chickpea and spring onion soup with paprika and labne toast (which is a type of flatbread) [$12]

market vegetables bagna cauda with prosciutto, burrata and toasted crumbs [$14]

The conversation was warm and lively. We discussed politics, love and life, and checked-in to see what current projects they were involved with--and how their Aspen restaurant D19 is doing! [That's right--they also own a restaurant!]

Mariel had the Hawaiian tuna with tonnato sauce, grilled leeks, soft-cooked egg & caper berries [$19]. Although delicious, the tuna was unfortunately drowned in the tonnato sauce and I thought-- looked a little unappetizing.

The slow roasted pork sandwich was huge, and came with marinated artichokes, mustard aioli, and wild arugula [$17].

[Jonathan Stoller showing off his delicious Pork Sandwich]

Go here to see some of Jonathan's amazing photography:

Also when you visit Aspen eat at their smash hit restaurant D19, where Jonathan also displays his photos.

305 South Mill St
Aspen, CO 91611
[970] 925.6019

Herb let us know that they are releasing their independent film Save Me in September, on which Herb & Judith were producers; Judith's husband Robert wrote the screenplay for, and Judith stars in with Chad Allen and Robert Gant.

A little about the Point Foundation from their website :

Since AIDS began to decimate the Gay community, Herb has committed more of himself and his passion to fighting the pandemic, to confronting the realities uncovered by his experience with the disease, and with working to add to the strength, unity, and spiritual base of the Gay and Lesbian community.

In Herb's own words . . .
"The Point Foundation is incredibly inspiring to me. Providing not only financial support but the psychological, emotional, and spiritual support that goes along with mentoring is filling a very important need within the LGBT community. The fact that leadership potential is an element of the selection process means that we are thinking ahead to the future of the entire community as well as of these worthy and oppressed young men and women."


8474 melrose avenue
los angeles, california 90069
[323] 655.6277

Innovative Artists
1505 10th St
Santa Monica, CA 90401
[310] 656.0400

Coast Asset Management
725 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica -
[310] 576.3500

I'm Back

Thanks for reading my blog, and for those of you who’ve noticed [and been pestering me to start writing again] let me explain that I have been traveling a bit—to Los Angeles for an amazing lunch at the best restaurant in LA. And also at Mario Batali’s and good friend Nancy Silverton's (La Brea Bakery superstar chef) new restaurant Osteria Mozza—one of the hardest tickets to get in town-- for a dazzling dinner in Hollywood, and with celebrities in tow...

I will be blogging and sharing photos about these meals, soon. I also continued south from LA and landed in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 11 days of beaching, exploring, shopping and eating some of the best street tacos I’ve ever had—all with camera in tow to let you in on some great street food I discovered.

Here at Pacific Grill, we have just changed the Dinner, Lunch and Bar Menus a bit to reflect our continued transition from Spring into Summer, and I will be sharing with you some of our new dishes: like our grilled lamb flank steak with amazing feta mashed potatoes, and a delicious light summery salad of grilled oregano chicken with a warm Greek bread salad.

While we were working on these menus we noticed how often that arugula [rocket, roquette, rugula, and rucola] has been showing up in our menus on salads and as a good garnish on some of our grilled meat entrees. This pungent lettuce looks beautiful, and has a hot-mustard taste rather like radish.

And now I just read an interesting article on how nutritious it is too! The article says: “Pack some onions and arugula betwixt your turkey burger and bun today. It's a delicious way to help protect your pancreas”.

Apparently, an 8-year study found that people who consumed this leafy green had a 23% less chance of getting pancreatic cancer. Onions are another good source. So if you eat one of our Steak Salads at lunch and dinner, know you are putting some good cancer-fighters into your system, as well as enjoying a delicious meal.

If you'd like to read the complete article you can find it on Oprah's Dr. Oz website here: