THE DISH

Each week we present our most delicious bite.  This week, the Sable & Whitefish Salad Platter from Barney Greengrass in Beverly Hills, California.

If you ever wondered if the wealthy citizens of Beverly Hills really do live better than we mere mortals, one need look no further than the top floor of Barney’s Department store.  After your first trip to Barney Greengrass, you come away with the only possible answer: They most assuredly do.

Famously jetting in their specialty smoked and cured fishes from the farthest reaches of the isle of Manhattan, Barney Greengrass is the ultimate deli, an unattractive room with a few tables covered in white butcher paper.  The fact that the world’s wealthiest and well-traveled citizens flock here daily, however, is a testament to the product that is offered.

By no means inexpensive, the platter pictured above arrived in the neighborhood of $40.00.  It also served two people and filled a large to-go box, which I criminally forgot to actually take home.  Quite frankly, I suspect that it was the most deliciousness that $20.00 can buy one person.  Much akin to a “fish butter,” the sable packed a flavor punch that melted on the tongue like a delicious lozenge.  The whitefish snapped with a freshness that is rarely found in anything labeled “salad,” and in this case, most certainly not a salad included on any diet to which the fit citizens of this fine city might ascribe.  In short, bliss. Pure. Dining. Bliss.

Sometimes, most times actually, words simply do not suffice in relating a delicious bite.  Now that I recall this extraordinary breakfast, I suspect that it would have been more effective to simply post the picture.  Therefore, I now kindly request that you please ignore all verbiage included between the image above to the link below.

www.barneys.com

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WHAT BECOMES A LEGEND MOST

Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic Jonathan Gold recently offered a brilliant reflection on the impending closure of one of Los Angeles’ most highly acclaimed and long running restaurants – Campanile.  For more than two decades, the restaurant has famously played home to many of L.A.’s most talented chefs, including chef/owner Mark Peel and his former wife, Chef Nancy Silverton.

The restaurant played a very dramatic role in my own adventures in Los Angeles and continues to offer some of my greatest dining memories.

At the far end of the Campanile bar await three backless bar stools, each situated in such a manner as to provide the perfect lighting for reading. For several years, I lived just a few short blocks away from the restaurant, and I arrived to spend many an evening engrossed in a good book at the end of that bar.  I would often enjoy excellent dinners; however most often, I simply enjoyed an escape via great literature and a glass of wine.

As with most neighborhood bars, especially those that survive for many years, a very loyal clientele of regulars tends to form over the years.  I was lucky to meet and know many of the regulars at this bar, an unusually eclectic of mix of professionals, most highly successful entrepreneurs and movie industry-types seeking a quiet place to unwind with friends. In many cases, the “friends” in question were the bartenders that have worked here for years, if not decades.  These gentlemen were always the consummate professionals, painstakingly remembering each guest’s name and preference of seat, libation, and conversation topic.  It was always a comfortingly familiar experience to return to this bar, year after year.

Oddly, only rarely was I found in the dining room of the restaurant. We descended upon the restaurant, as did most of Los Angeles, for the launch of the infamous Grilled Cheese Nights.  I suspect that I personally tried every version ever created by Ms. Silverton.  I am also quite certain that I thoroughly enjoyed every one.

One very special night returns to mind, however – the night that I would meet my personal “cultural hero,” acclaimed American writer Gore Vidal.  I happened to be entertaining friends visiting from the East Coast.  We were deep into dinner (I vividly recall this dinner as my introduction to the elusive and exotic Flageolet bean!) and deep into the enjoyment of our wine, when I suddenly realized that I was sitting a mere two feet away from my literary hero.  Observing that I was about to ask for Mr. Vidal’s autograph (and rudely intrude on his dinner) and had no paper or pen at my disposal, the server whipped out a menu and pen in the blink of an eye. Mr. Vidal was gracious and accommodating, and I treasure my autographed menu to this day.  It perhaps sounds corny, but it was one of those “only in LA” celebrity encounters that one remembers for a lifetime.

Upon hearing of the closing of this great restaurant, I very recently found myself driving down La Brea on the way home.  It was a Saturday night and, to my surprise, a parking space was open directly in front of the restaurant.  Destiny was demanding that I visit one last time.  The bartender remembered me, warmly welcomed me back and thanked me for stopping in to say hello.  There wasn’t time for conversation, as everyone at the bar had returned for the same reason – to relive and relish long held cherished memories.  While there, I noticed the gentleman that had offered the pen and menu to document my meeting with Gore Vidal was busy serving his guests in the front vestibule of the restaurant on this busy weekend night, just as he had likely done professionally for years and years.

I enjoyed my beverage, offered with the bartender’s compliments, and then exited with a smile… And my memories – wonderful memories of great friends, great literature, and memorable evenings spent with consummate hospitality professionals.  To those professionals, I sincerely wish the very best of luck and happiness, as well as my sincere thanks for their warm and caring service throughout the years. They were very good years, indeed.

Campanile is scheduled to offer

final service on October 31, 2012.

www.campanilerestaurant.com

Campanile on Facebook (for final updates, memories, and information)

Filed under: DCPR dine out series — admin

THE DISH

Each week we present our most delicious bite.

This week, the MIXED MUSHROOM PIZZA with fontina, Parmigiano Reggiano & thyme at Milo & Olive in Santa Monica, California.

We’ve enjoyed a great deal of delicious pizza over the last few years. One might say that L.A. is a bit spoiled for pizza. There are quite literally dozens of high end, gourmet pizza joints in this town. And we’ve tried them all. Milo & Olive presents a small quandary, however. It is a tiny space. Very tiny. So tiny, in fact, that I have never once driven by without seeing a line of waiting diners, and most times I continue to drive past for that reason.  My mistake.

I’ve been here before, and I’ve enjoyed very good meals here before.   This past week, however, presented a dining experience in which every element came together in one of those magical, mythical experiences of restaurant excellence.

When we ordered, the very efficient server informed us that the pizza would take up to twenty minutes to prepare, and asked politely if we’d like to add a starter.  When I responded that there were pizza places in town that could cook my pie in under a minute, he quite cleverly responded with “Well, that’s just disgusting!”  And on that hilarious note, we chose to start with a bottle of Rose to steady us until dinner arrived and to keep the good humor intact.  Our plan worked beautifully!

At $20 a pop, this is no cheap pie.  It is, in fact, that most expensive on the menu.  Interesting, considering the other choices of Shrimp, La Quercia prosciutto, and pork belly sausage.  One bite in, however, and the reason became very clear.  This was no ordinary mix of mushroom. My mind raced back a couple of decades to the fine dining tables that served Mushroom Duxelles – the glory days in which chefs discovered all new ways to make healthy ingredients decadent and as unhealthy as possible.  Although this was not exactly that preparation, it was that glorious mix of exotic mushrooms – the flavors were so rich and bold that it was as if a taste memory had resurfaced.  The funk of the mushroom, the earthiness of the fontina, a hint of thyme, with an excellent Parmigiano Reggiano grated on top made for the perfect pie.

I ate three of the four slices.  The next morning, I discovered the fourth in my refrigerator.  It was devoured cold, slowly, with both eyes closed and a smile.  Hands down, this was the best mushroom pizza I have ever enjoyed. Ever. Add attentive, professional service and good company – one of the absolute most enjoyable dinners in a very long while.

If you don’t have plans later in the evening, as we did, start off with the Garlic Knot.  A giant fist of garlic, wrapped in dough and baked in the pizza oven.  Pure garlic heaven, but only if you have mints at the ready and the guarantee that no one will be within three feet of you for the remainder of the night.  Oh, and it takes twenty minutes to prepare, as well.  I highly recommend the rose to fill the gap.

www.miloandolive.com

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