Osteria Mozza

For my birthday last Wednesday, my very benevolent husband took me to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Osteria Mozza.

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We started off the night with our favorite Italian cocktail, Spritz con Aperol, a classic venetian cocktail made with prosecco, ice, aperol, a little soda water, and a slice of orange peel; Mozza does it just right, with the perfect ratio of prosecco to Aperol.

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I love Mozza for their very diverse mozzarella bar, the incredible pasta selection, and the exceptional service. I also love the bold flavors, the incredible textures, and the beautiful presentation of the food.

We started off by splitting the Grilled Octopus with potatoes, celery and lemon. The octopus was perfectly grilled; crispy exterior, soft delicate interior. Balanced beautifully with the acidity of the lemon and the crunch of the celery.

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Then we had the Baby Kale with pine nuts, ricotta salata, and marinated anchovies. What an incredible dish. A twist on a classic salad (Cesar) the kale is blanched just enough that you still get a crunch from the greens and is dressed with an incredible Cesar-esque dressing that is tart and salty from the anchovies. Then it is sprinkled very generously with the ricotta salata. This dish is definitely on my to-do list for recipe developments.

Following the salad we had the Bufala Mozzarella with crushed lemon, bagna cauda and bottarga, which honestly I could do without. The bagna cauda over powered any other flavor and completely took over the subtlety of the bufala mozzarella, which is a true shame.

Lastly we shared two different pastas: Garganelli with Ragu Bolognese; nice rich flavors, beautifully crafted pasta, nothing to out of this world. And the Bucatini all’Amatriciana; spicy yet sweet, nice balance of tomato to pasta ratio, very classic and extremely well executed, paired wonderfully with the wine.

As if we couldn’t eat enough, we finished off the night with the Bomboloni that is served with huckleberry marmellata and lemon mascarpone. I gotta say, this is one of the best desserts I have had in a while. Bomboloni are one of my favorite things in the world; think fancy doughnut holes. Served with an incredible huckleberry jam and and the most heavenly lemon mascarpone. Perfectly fried and deliciously sweet yet tart. At this point I was so full that we had to take the rest of the Bomboloni home, which were a perfect breakfast the next day!!

Friendsgiving

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Ok OK, so this is way late, but with the Holidays and traveling to Mexico for a family wedding, it has been tricky to get this post up.

For the last three years, my now husband and I have been planning and hosting what we like to call “Friendsgiving”. In years past, we have done a pot-luck style event and have just been in charge of the turkey, a few sides, and of course dessert. This year though, we decided to go all out and make everything and just have our friends bring wine or beer.

One of the things I have come to love the most about the hubby is his philosophy of: if you are going to do something right, you should go all out. And all out did we go! We got rentals for the tables and chairs, and all of the wine glasses and dinner plates. We spent all week prepping and chopping and planning and stressing! It was a wonderful way for us to bond doing the things we love the most, all while listening to wonderful music and sipping on delicious wine!

The dinner menu was wonderful:

Soup:

Butternut Squash Soup with Fried sage croutons

Main Course:

Roasted Brine-Cured Turkey with With Wild Mushroom Stuffing

Madeira-Sage turkey gravy

Sides:

Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette

Everything parker house rolls

Baby Arugula salad with Roasted beets, toasted pumpkin seed, cilantro and goat cheese

Cranberry Sauce with Champagne and Currants

Mashed potatoes with celery root

Dessert:

Pumpkin Brioche Bread Pudding with cinnamon caramel sauce and whipped crème fraiche

 

All in all a very successful event full of many laughs, wonderful food, and incredible wine chosen by our resident wine expert, David Othenin Girard at K&L.

Looking forward to next year!!

 

 

 

 

The Silverspoon

For those of us who like to cook, we are always in search of the perfect cookbook. But what makes a perfect cookbook? Can there really be just one?

The reason I love cookbooks is because there are literally thousands of viewpoints on different techniques, cuisines, themes, and so on. Whenever I am traveling, I usually like to buy a cookbook that is written for locals versus something that is made for tourists because it tends to be a lot more authentic and is fascinating to see how different authors around the world communicate to their readers about food and cooking.

One of my favorite books to cook out of is The Silverspoon, which is exactly that. A cookbook for Italians that includes all the dishes that Italians like to eat and prepare. The edition that I own has been adapted for English-speaking readers. According to the book, English language cookbooks usually  have very detailed step by step descriptions for how to prepare the dish. Although its been adapted for English-speaking readers, the authors of The Silverspoon, made a huge effort to maintain the authenticity of the recipes and include some ingredients or methods that may seem unusual to us. For example, the other night I made Bread Soup with Tomato, something I had never had and didn’t know how it should taste. It was interesting because the recipe was quite bland for my palate and I ended up dousing the soup with Sriracha and added way more salt than I think it calls for.

What I think this book was intended to do, was to give its readers a basic understanding of Italian food and cooking, and to encourage cooks to branch out on their own. I have cooked a couple of things out of this book and so far, it has been a great learning experience and, thanks to the support of my husband, I have decided to cook my way through this book in an effort to learn more about Italian cooking and to further my skills as a chef! Coming up….Shrimp Risotto!!

Back from Hiatus

Hello all,

I am back. I have to apologize for my disappearance. With a wedding (!) to plan and survive, and a little life challenges to deal with, I have not exactly been inspired to write. But now I am back! And back for good. I  have been doing a lot of cooking and a lot of eating. And even dabbling back into home baking. Starting slowly, like someone suffering from PTSD, with the occasional cake or quick bread here and there, I feel like I am finally feeling at ease with my dear o’l friend, Ms. Kitchen Aid, who has been sadly staring at me from her neglected corner.

Maybe I should explain.For those who know, I am a pastry chef in Los Angeles, who has lost her passion for home baking, because honestly after 10-12 hours of doing anything for a living who wants to do it all over again when they get home? Not me! But I realized, this was my go-to meditation, this was where I felt at home. Mixing batters and doughs, creaming butter, proofing bread, I loved it all. I decided that in order to reignite my passion for baking at home, I have got to get (slowly) back into it.

One of the problems that arose with my home baking is that I had all these ridiculous standards for myself for perfection and doing everything the 5 star, 5 diamond way. This is not the case at home. It should be relaxed and rewarding, and sometimes it should be a failure. It shouldn’t matter if you can bake 10,000 macaroons (not an exaggeration) in 8 hours, or make a $10,000 cake for one of the wealthiest royal families before lunch. It should be on my terms; when I want, how I want, and if I want.

That being said, I have to remember that when I am feeling like I am reverting to my old ways, I need to take a deep breath, step back, and appreciate the way baking makes me feel and how rewarding it can be. Because I really don’t want to lose one of my oldest and dearest friends; good o’l Ms. Kitchen Aid.

                                                                                    

Does Provenance Dictate Quality?

On a recent trip up to Northern California for the Concours De Elegance at Pebble Beach, I had the opportunity to observe the lifestyles of the 1%. A place where $10 lattes are the norm and $800 breakfasts are no big deal. It got me thinking does the provenance of a restaurant or Chef make the actual food taste that much better? Or is it all in our head?

I have experienced it time and time again here in Los Angeles, where there is this huge hype for a restaurant run by some big name Chef, that just disappoints both my palate and my bank account. Why do I continue to do this? Why does it even matter? Shouldn’t we be enjoying the ingredients or the flavors of the food rather than let who made it or where we ate it dictate whether or not we liked it?

Since I was up in the Monterrey area for several days I had the chance to eat at several of the restaurants at the Lodge at Pebble Beach; a perfect example of a place where supposed provenance overcomes quality. One of the restaurants, Stillwater, which is supposed to be one of the best in the area, was extremely overpriced and quite a disappointment. Stillwater offers seafood dishes ranging from hamachi and tuna sashimi to olive-oil poached halibut. While the quality of the seafood was in fact quite good, the dishes themselves were boring and poorly executed;certainly not worth the $50 entrée price.

Another example was a few months ago we went to Jose Andres’ restaurant Bazaar ;a restaurant with very high ratings simply because of the fact that the Chef came from El Bulli, another big name restaurant in Spain. Not only was the service appalling, but the food was almost inedible. Nothing was seasoned properly nor really made any sense (Jose Andres is a big molecular gastronomy guy). The only thing worth eating was the Jamon Iberrico, which they don’t even prepare, it is cured ham that is imported from Spain. We walked away from their both poor ($200 meal!) and still hungry.

Contrary to that, there is a little Japanese place close to our apartment called Nabeeya, that is run by a very hardworking husband and wife team that offers great chicken teriyaki and spicy tuna bowls that are both extremely satisfying and very affordable (you can walk away spending less than $10).

Now I am not saying that cheap food is necessarily better than expensive food, I am simply stating that you won’t always get the best meal from the most expensive and popular restaurant. The best meals in my opinion, are the ones that are prepared by really hardworking people that really care about the product and the customer and are not caught up in the hype of who they are or where they work.