In another life, I unfortunately knew someone who would constantly use the phrase “My friend _____________ and I…”

The blank would usually be some celebrity or socialite.  They might have been in the same room together once in 1999, or they might have seated the celebrity once in a restaurant.  It never ended.  It was insufferable.

With that in mind, I must confess:  I KNEW JULIA CHILD.  JULIA WAS MY FRIEND.  (Dom, however, was not)

julia dom

I knew Julia to be a warm and caring person, always sharing her wisdom, knowledge, and celebrity with grace and charm.  And, she had illegible handwriting.

This last fact I know, firsthand, because I stood in line at the Century City Mall for hours, along with about 1,000 of her other closest L.A. friends for an in-store “meet & greet,” as well as the opportunity to nab an autographed copy of her latest cookbook.

I set out on a reconnaissance mission the night before.  I went into Macy’s (YES, Macy’s! I know…odd!) and asked where the culinary queen would hold court the following day.  Turns out, no one at Macy’s – EXCEPT FOR ME – seemed to have any knowledge of her arrival.  Managers were called.  “Oh yes,” said the floor manager. “She will be signing books in that corner.”  “THAT TINY LITTLE CORNER?” I screamed, unbelievably.  “YOU’D BEST FIND OUT!  THERE WILL BE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE HERE TO MEET HER TOMORROW!”  The manager was unfazed, and seemed happy that I left the store.

The next day, I arrived HOURS in advance.  Of course, so did about 500 others!!  While my friends went to see a movie, I waited in a long, hot line with several hundred young culinary students, chefs in whites, cooks,  foodies, and a few people that thought they were in the movie line.  I was approximately the 100th person in line….Well, ALMOST 100.  Turns out, in about five minutes after Miss Child arrived, an announcement was made that there were no more cookbooks.  They had brought only 100!

I held a strangers place in line, while he ran to the closest bookstore and bought us six copies – three for each of us.

As luck would have it, Ms Child graciously agreed to remain and sign all the new books, even though the event had been staged as a benefit for her pet charity.

As we approached, we were warned by her assistant that we would have only moments.  “YOU MUST FINISH YOUR CONVERSATION WHEN SHE HAS FINISHED SIGNING YOUR BOOKS,” barked the handler.

I had one chance to ask Miss Child, the most recognizable and celebrated chef of our lifetime, one question.

The pressure was STAGGERING!!  WHAT would I ask?

“Bonjouuuuuur,” she said in a feeble little voice.  As she scrawled her name on the first page of each cookbook, I asked…

“Where will you be dining this evening, Miss Child?”

I might as well have asked for state secrets to be revealed!  Assistants leaped to her defense, barking that “Miss Child will not be disclosing any information about her dining while in town.  We wouldn’t want to insult any of her friends and colleagues that she will not have time to visit.”

And with that, I was whisked away from her presence, three signed cookbooks in hand.  I’m going to guesstimate….ohhhhh….45 seconds of meaningful conversation that we would both most likely remember for a lifetime!

I have two of the books to this day.  An old friend and gourmand in Philly has the third.

Long after the day of our fateful meeting, I attended a seminar at the UCLA/ LA Times book fair, in which Russ Parsons hosted a panel discussion on Miss Child.  Her former assistant related the story about La Super Rica Taqueria…”It was never her favorite place!  LIFE magazine was doing a photo shoot for “A Day In The Life.”  She did not want to pick a local restaurant in Santa Barbara for fear of insulting the chefs that were not chosen.  Instead, they chose a restaurant that she had never been to before.  Once the magazine hit, culinary folk lore set in…Julia’s favorite restaurant…and the lines have never stopped.”

A good story.  And, I suppose, an assistant of twenty some years would know these things.  Clearly, however, she did not share that same friendship that Julia and I would cherish for years to come.  Sad, really…

So now I hear there is a little movie being made?  I’m sure that they, too, have come up with a few tag lines and quotes here and there…they might have even found a good actress to play Julia.  I have no doubt, however, that it will suffer in comparison to my memories…MY FRIENDSHIP…with Julia.

It’s been several years now since that day.  I think I might just get out that cookbook and actually COOK SOMETHING…

…for the first time.

A "Passable" Julia, I Suppose
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Brad Johnson is clearly one of Los Angeles’ most accomplished and acclaimed food journalists.  He was this years’ recipient of the James Beard Award for Criticism.  Brad offers perhaps the most entertaining and endearing reads of dining journeys in our city.  Angeleno’s readership is well traveled, well read, and well fed.  To be invited to Angeleno’s annual event is an honor, especially for a working chef!  Hence, The Best of The Best was in attendance tonight!

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In years past, chefs celebrated.  This year, Angeleno used the occasion to support The Children’s Institute.  Hosted by The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica (conveniently located two blocks from my house!), the chefs “worked” this year, cooking for all to enjoy.

Invited chefs in attendance included David Myers, along with Chefs de Cuisine Michael David, Steve Samson, Kuniko Yagi, and Ramon Perez from SONA, Comme Ca, and Pizzeria Ortica; Chef Lee Hefter and Chefs de Cuisine Thomas Boyce from Spago and Ari Rosen from CUT, and Spago’s GENIUS pastry wizard, Sherry Yard; Street’s Susan Feniger; Craft’s Anthony Zappola; Chef Brian Moyers of BLT Steak; Ray Garcia of FIG (our new neighborhood hangout!); Warren Schwartz of Westside Tavern; Evan Funke of Rustic Canyon Wine Bar; and Monique King of The Nine Thirty.  It is fascinating to note how many of these acclaimed chefs are now cooking on the westside of Los Angeles, surely signaling a dramatic turn in the dining scene of Los Angeles within a very short time frame!


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For a full list of winners, pick of a copy of Angeleno’s latest issue, on stands now.


Epilogue: I spoke these words several months ago to the owner of a new restaurant: “It’s GENIUS!  You have created the. best. thing. to happen to dining in Los Angeles in a decade!  Congratulations! And, PLEASE let me have a table after word gets out….”  Turns out, Brad agreed.

Winner of Angeleno’s BEST NEW RESTAURANT, Church & State!

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CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS!  Fortunately for us all, the caliber of dining in Los Angeles is Extraordinary!

Go. Now. Make A Reservation. And enjoy something delicious!

Sincere THANKS to Brad Johnson and Angeleno Magazine.


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Bloggers have touted its’ status as “The King of Desserts.” Food critics have waxed poetic, enchanted and enthralled by its creamy richness. Regular folk have been fooled.  Vegans have wept.  Ah, the poor, poor vegans…

When SEED Restaurant Chef Eric Lechasseur opened Melrose Avenue’s veggie friendly M Café several years ago, he arrived with a new vegan recipe for a beloved, dairy laden dessert presentation – Tiramisu.  From day one, the rich dessert would vanish from the shelves, often leaving late comers and regulars begging for a “Tiramisu Reservation Service.”  Unfortunately, that service proved elusive.

Blogger quarry girl then wrote “…the cheese and egg-filled dessert…comes in a cup and is kind of parfait-style with the lady fingers mashed up, i can tell you it is extremely delicious and authentic. right down to the espresso infused cream mixture and the cocoa sprinkles on top, it tastes just as good as the original. they perfectly mimicked the texture of something made with eggs and creamy mascarpone, all mixed up with chocolate, coffee and cookies. if you, like me, have been missing tiramisu…no need to look any further.”

Unfortunately, vegans were doomed to look further. Upon departing to open the his own SEED Restaurant in Venice, CA, Chef Eric decided not to recreate any of the old dishes.  Indeed, Hearts sank. The vegan community entered a winter of dessert discontent.

Can you say “MISTAKE?” “BLUNDER?”  “GAFFE?”

Regulars ranted. Friends begged. Mothers dropped celebrity names within earshot of innocent children.  Bloggers typed thousands of words expressing anger, frustration and futility.  Clearly, the gods were not smiling.  And sadly, neither were the vegans, the veggies, or the macro’s.

From the FRONT PAGE of the Los Angeles Times’ Food Section, writer Betty Hallock teased and tormented, “Lechasseur (the pastry chef who dreamed up the desserts at M before opening SEED Kitchen)…including a dessert case filled with layered chocolate cake, tiramisu and strawberry cupcakes topped with a pink swirl of tofu butter cream…”  The agony of it all!!  The anguish!! How much could one community possibly endure?

Alas, due to overwhelming public sentiment and repeated pleas from the authorities, the moment that dessert lovers have long dreamt HAS FINALLY ARRIVED:



Within hours of its’ unannounced return to the menu, blogger Eco Vegan Gal discovered it amongst SEED’S dessert-filled case, writing “I went to SEED for the first time in weeks…I tried Eric’s new Tiramisu and it was fabulous.  Not only is it vegan, but it’s gluten-free as well…It’s a perfect size, too, especially since all the meals there are very filling.”

Vegans throughout Southern California have breathed a collective sigh of relief, dreams have been realized, and prayers have been answered.  Ladies and gentlemen, TIRAMISU IS NOW AVAILABLE AT SEED RESTAURANT…that is, while supplies last… (ouch)

SEED Restaurant is located at 1604 Pacific Ave | Venice, CA | 90291 | 310.396.1604




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You may visit SEED here.

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“Laughter is brightest where food is best.”

~ Irish Proverb

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ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE KIM SEVERSON and who’s in the new julie & julia movie…

July 17, 2009, 1:34 pm

Play Along: Who’s That Next to Meryl Streep?

By Kim Severson

The pop-culture vulture fest is sure to descend on “Julie & Julia” when it opens on Aug. 5. So why not get a jump on things? At a screening last night, we all enjoyed a good round of spot-the-foodie.

The biggest New York food glitterati moment belongs to Amanda Hesser, who plays herself and has a couple of lines. She looks just like Julia Roberts with a notepad as she works her way through a pork chop and an interview with Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams.)

We were happily eating popcorn and enjoying a scene in which Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) throws a party for her sister when Corby Kummer’s bearded mug popped into view.

But what of Jeffrey Steingarten, who was supposed to have a cameo? Completely missed it. And although we looked hard for Ed Levine in a black cap reaching for a jar of salsa at Dean & DeLuca, we missed him, too. Mr. Levine, the food writer and Serious Eats mastermind, wrote quite a detailed account of his day on the set. Nor did we see Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times television critic, who plays Mr. Levine’s wife.

We did not miss our own Frank Bruni, however. Just for fun, he agreed to make an anonymous appearance in the film, being released as he steps down from his job. He shows up for a split second near the end.

From New York Times, Diner’s Journal Blog
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bar Celona, Pasadena

I basically grew up in Pasadena. My family lives in Temple City and my sister and I spent many, MANY teenage/twentysomething nights in Pasadena, usually at the old E Bar or eating at many of the good restaurants the town had to offer. I remember my parents took us to a place called Julianne (not the one in San Marino) where I had my very first duck l’orange and I thought it was the best thing I’d ever eaten. Pasadena always had a festive, special-occasion quality about it and I spent much of my time there while growing up.

Cut to now. Pasadena, especially Old Town, has seemingly turned into a chain restaurant mecca, wait, the “high-end chain restaurant mecca” is more like it. Cheesecake Factory? Check. Il Fornaio? Check. Louise’s? Check. Houston’s? Check. Toss in a few strange fusion places like Thaitalian (wait, they went out of biz) and sushi-for-the-masses like Afloat Sushi (still in biz) and you have the odd, uninspiring food scene in Pasadena, save for a few gems like Vertical Wine Bistro, Parkway Grill (which has had it’s share of ups and downs) and Arroyo Chop House. Then Bar Celona came along………well, more like Chef Josef Centeno came to Bar Celona.

NOT Chef Centeno, but a patron of the restaurant that looked straight out of Spain, thus the photo!

Chef Centeno gained popularity while at Opus Restaurant and has brought new life to Bar Celona. I’d been there before his arrival and it was good, but now it is really special- I mean it’s food that hasn’t been available in Pasadena before, in my opnion. It’s SO NICE to go to my beloved neighborhood and sit down for plate after plate of inventive, fresh, creative and well prepared food such as the offerings of Chef Centeno and Bar Celona.

TO read full post, please visit Tuna Toast blog@

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JACK’S NEW BABY: ix tapa comes to pasadena


Jack Huang Announces Addition to Restaurant Portfolio


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Restaurateur Jack Huang, owner of Pasadena’s long-successful Bar Celona and Villa SORRISO Restaurants has announced the addition of IX tapa Cantina.  Located just down the Boulevard from his current holdings, IX tapa will occupy the former space of Moose McGillycuddy’s Pub (Most recently, Fred’s Cantina). Named for the popular Mexican resort city, IX tapa will feature full liquor licensing, as well as rare and cherished permits for live entertainment and dancing.  Chefs and menu concepts will be announced in the coming weeks.  Huang anticipates that he will complete a full redesign of the expansive space by early fall.

IX tapa

119 E. Colorado Blvd | Pasadena, CA| 90015

Bar Celona

46 E. Colorado Blvd | Pasadena, CA | 90015

626.405.1000 |


168 W. Colorado Blvd | Pasadena, CA | 90015

626.793.2233 |

For all press inquiries, please contact DAN COX for public relations

323.481.0983 |

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“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Virginia Woolf,  “A Room of One’s Own”

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Every Wednesday, I spend a couple of hours at the Santa Monica Farmer Market.  At least an hour is dedicated to devouring the Food Sections of The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle.  The next 45 minutes or so are spent talking to chefs and farmers.  And the final fifteen minutes are spent buying food.  I can not cook, so my purchases are usually just fruit and berries.

Today I bought the most delicious, juicy tomatoes.

The tomato is a very controversial fruit.

Yes, fruit.

While you argue amongst yourselves, I’ll be snacking on these little wonders that I bought today.  Vine ripened, smelling like a tomato should smell, and actually tasting like a tomato should taste….these are the first tomatoes of the season that reminded me of the ones that my grandfathers used to bring in from their gardens.  They would harvest hundreds and thousands of tomatoes every year. Most, we would eat fresh – a big plate full, sliced with a little salt.  Every time they would visit, they would arrive with giant grocery bags full of fresh tomatoes.  Those tomatoes, however, were usually just one very small part of the meal..almost an afterthought that we never really gave much thought to at all.  When I remember the flavor of those tomatoes, it is sort of like searching for the same croissant taste that I ate in Paris. It’s not gonna happen!!

I don’t take them for granted anymore.  Those red things that you buy in the grocery store might look like tomatoes, but they’re really not.  This incredible fruit that I bought today ($2.50 lb) might not ever be AS delicious as my grandfathers were…but it put a big smile on my face when I sliced them for lunch today…and remembered the grandfathers and their tomatoes.  I’m pretty sure I took those farmers for granted.  I don’t anymore.



Today's Lunch, Compliments of THE FARMERS

Today's Lunch, Compliments of THE FARMERS

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