Tuesday, May 27, 2008

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


Anonymous said...

Miam, the food looks great...I love urugula, we eat that a lot in Europe.
I am glad I found this blog because I love eating and I admire so so much Judith Light, one of my favorite actesses since I was a teenager, hooked on Who's the Boss? !
I admire her a lot as a person as well. You are so lucky to know her.
Thank you for the links of their restaurant and the pictures of Mr. Stoller.

Anonymous said...

The restaurant seems very nice as well as the food. I certainly will stopover to enjoy it when i go to L.A. I appreciate all the more this article because it mentions Judith Light, and I am a really big fan. I've been following her career and her activism for years. Do you have more pictures of her by any chance?
Thank you

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thanks for the tour,(you are an awesome tour guide). I am waiting on baited breath to see what you did )or Aaron did) with the morells? Do I see maybe a mushroom class in the works. Chantrelles, Portabella. Morells the list is endless. I would love to see a mushroom sauce over pasta OMG I would be in heaven.. And a wine that that complemented that dish. I'm there.

Marty Daniels said...

I love to cook and of course, enjoy great food. Additionally, I found it interesting that your daughter Mariel works at Innovative Artists. I'm a voice over artist and a comedian from the Midwest. I'd love to eat at Pacific Grill the next time I'm in your area.

ChefGordonNaccarato said...

Thanks Marty for your comment--it is indeed a small world! I will pass your remarks on to my daughter Mariel. She just received a promotion at Innovative too! SO she is excited and I am of course so proud of her.