Cosa Buono

image2It’s difficult to find “unpretentious” in Los Angeles. Especially in the trendy newly gentrified “hipster” areas like Eagle Rock, Mar Vista, and even pockets of Venice. Every so often, though, one may serendipitously find himself in a spot so cozy and friendly it feels inherently like home. This is the vibe at the humble Italian fared Cosa Buono. And the food is just as impressive!

Nestled on an unassuming corner in Echo Park, the pint sized establishment seems to be a perfectly kept secret. An adorable bull dog named Happy Jack and his owners wait for their to-go order just outside the front door. I always love restaurants that are friendly towards four-legged companions. A welcoming hostess directs patrons inside, where the area somehow feels more spacious than it actually is. Conversation inside is easy. So easy, in fact, within minutes we are talking with the couples to our left and right. At one point we even all shared food! The clientele in this bistro are diverse and sociable and the GM, Cesar, immerses himself into the crowd, talking with each guest as if they are old friends. Everything about this place enhances the approachable familial climate.

 

image4Once seated, our attentive waitress is with us almost immediately. She effortlessly navigates us through the menu, honestly explaining which dishes could be missed and which should not be missed. The kitchen at Cosa Buona is so efficient that my one suggested heads up is to tell your waitress to bring each dish out one at a time.  We barely had a bite of our mozzarella sticks and the next course suddenly appeared! Our waitress was extremely accommodating regarding a slow down.  

We started with the Smoky Mozzarella sticks. They are lightly breaded and fried. I haven’t had a mozzarella stick since I was probably 11 years old and I remember them being extremely greasy and heavy. At Cosa Buono I was pleasantly surprised. The cheese is stringy, not rubbery, and has a fantastic smoky aftertaste. The dipping marinara has a touch of heat that really seals the deal regarding taste.

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The Blue Crab Clams Oregenata is a beautifully presented appetizer served in the half shell. It could be considered a bit heavy but is DELICIOUS. With a hint of parmesan and quintessential Italian flavors, it’s definitely a good one to share with a table of four or more.

The Chopped salad is crisp and light though a touch bland compared to chops at other Italian spots. There is just something missing but I can’t quite put my finger on it. After adding a squeeze of lemon and some pepper the flavors open up a bit and the salad becomes more satisfying. Though the chop is good, if your looking for abundant flavors I recommend trying a different salad. I plan on trying the chop again though. Maybe it needs some red pepper flakes, or maybe it was an off day….I will figure out whats missing and the adventure will be fun!

 

image3The pepperoni pizza is out of this world AMAZING. Perfectly crisp, with delicious bite sized pieces of  sausage and that delectable marinara with hidden hints of well-balanced basil and oregano! Voila. It’s gorgeous. As if improvement is possible,  apparently the pizza is even better the next day (my cohort took home the leftovers and ate it for breakfast).

Throughout the dinner we share a bottle of Chianti that looks like it came right from a pirates ship. The wine list is fantastic. The beer list is SUPER fun and covers every option (blonde, IPA…up until porter, which would be too heavy for the food here anyways). I didn’t notice any offering of aperitifs, but there is an apricot brandy on the dessert menu that smells and tastes FANTASTIC. Cesar was nice enough to let the table sample it, but I inadvertently drank the whole thing myself (ha ha!).

The friendly fun atmosphere, fantastic food, and moderate prices make Cosa Buono a place to visit time and time again. I would and will definitely return.

A++

xoxo

QJ

QJ

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MB Post

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I’m not sure what has happened to LA but it seems overwrought with restaurants that are trying WAY TOO HARD. Its nearly impossible to find a spot that has deliciously clean food flavored with simple ingredients. Lately there is so much “deep fried brussel sprouts covered with shaved parmesan cooked with ham hock and simmered in a cream sauce” its no wonder Americans have an obesity problem. I’m tired of executive chef’s trying to be “creative” when all we really need is a delicious meal made from food that is not genetically modified from Chernobyl Farms and that tastes good. I had high hopes for MB Post because I heard great things about Owner/Chef David LeFevre, whose attitude is to bring home-style cooking to the public. When I looked on-line, I liked the look of the menu with its creative naming conventions; “eat your vegetables” for the veggie section, “Seafood…eat food” for seafood, “Meat Me Later….” and so on. I was also excited to venture somewhere a bit further out of LA and see what the scene was there.

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Far enough away from the “keeping up with the joneses” of Los Angeles proper, this Manhattan Beach establishment converted from the original 1960s post office (such a fun idea!) was filled to the brim with friendly un pretentious, albeit hip, people clad in anything from sports gear to casually chic Saturday night clothes. The open kitchen was clean and well organized. The ambience felt lively and beach casual, despite the loudness (Warning: learn ASL if you actually want to communicate with your dinner guests here). Our waiter missed the three-minute rule by probably three extra minutes, but I’ll cut him some slack because the place was packed. The menu had plenty of choices without being overwhelming. Unfortunately, once the food was delivered it was just…..there. The soft shell crab, beautifully presented, was disappointingly soggy and practically meat-free. The broccoflower, which our waiter recommended, tasted like a salt stick. I did actually like the skirt steak, which was nice and crisp from the wood grill, perfectly pink inside, and covered lightly with a flavorful chimichurri sauce. My companion wanted more sauce but sadly by the time our leisurely wait staff checked on us, some 30 minutes later, the steak was almost gone. The green beans with pork was actually an exquisite combination though maybe not worth the 11$ price tag. It blows my mind these restaurants can get away with charging exorbitant prices for food that is just mediocre. Its not that the food here was horrible, some of it was basically good, just not THAT good. A lot of it was salty and greasy. Mostly it tasted like my college roommate smoked a J and decided to make something up in our kitchen using leftovers and then charged people enough to eat it for us to pay for a semester of tuition.

 

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The skirt steak was definitely decent, especially for bar food.
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The asian style green beans were my favorite thing on the menu, other than the spicy margarita.

The hip vibe was cool and the menu was absolutely adorable with its kitschy little phrases. There were so many reasons I wanted this place to work. And it did, for drinks at the bar maybe. My spicy margarita was perhaps one of the best items on the menu! The wine was also quite piquant (not a huge wine list at MB Post but the choices are decent). If you are someone who wants a fun night out at a lively bar that has friendly people, above par bar food, and great drinks, MB Post could be the place for you. But if you are a foodie looking for an experience of exceptional service, party in your mouth fare, and a relaxed environment, look elsewhere.

**photos in this post were not taken by me.

 

xoxo

QJ

QJ

 

ChiSpacca

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As we enter the unassuming front area of Chi Spacca (AKA Mozza To Go), the hostess opens the partition behind her (literally) to reveal an inviting room with abundant sunlight and auburn colored walls ensconced in wine bottle filled built-in shelving. This rustic eleven-table restaurant is warm and welcoming with an enticing aroma that wets the appetite. Immediately I like it here. The ambiance is cultured without being pretentious; its somehow cozy and grand at the same time. Our table feels intimate but not isolated. From the moment we arrive we have the impression we’ve been invited as guests into someone’s home. An added touch is the open kitchen, as it is quite entertaining to watch the chef conduct his menu. I especially enjoyed seeing the Fred Flinstone sized flank of beef on the grill.

Impressed with the atmosphere as well as the friendly staff, I enthusiastically review the menu. There’s abundant choices without being over whelming. The prices vary from high to extremely high, but I am fairly certain that every bite will be worth each dollar.

I loved the food at Chi Spacca. In true Trattoria style, each dish is hearty and comprised of simple ingredients that enhance the natural flavors of the entree. As an example, the razor clams were sautéed with just garlic, a hint of lemon juice, a secret herb, and a drizzle of olive oil. They tasted fresh and natural and were surprisingly filling. For our appetizer we selected the Affettati Misti, which I highly recommend. This sample platter of in-house made sausages (pictured above) is not only delicious, but a great bang for the buck. To accompany our meats and fish, we ordered the butter lettuce salad which was perfectly misted with the most amazingly refreshing lemon vinaigrette I’ve ever tasted. So amazing that my dinner companion and I decided it would be fun to have a competition on who could get the closest in making this dressing at home. The charred sugar snap peas arrived to the table as our final course. These wonderfully crisp snap peas covered with yoghurt and lemon were just sweet enough that they seemed like the perfect desert. Our waitress had mentioned that the flat bread appetizer is the most popular and a chef friend declared his love of the bone marrow pie, but I was extremely happy with our choices. Of course I wouldn’t complain regarding returning here to taste the aforementioned selections. The food is so hearty that, despite the sticker shock, it is actually possible for a couple even on a meager budget to be satiated with spending just slightly over 100$, and that includes a glass of wine.

ChiSpacca is such a treat. It’s definitely a meat-lovers heaven and overall a quaint trattoria. I look forward to revisiting.

xoxo

QJ

QJ

C is for Cleo

 

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A few years ago I went on a wine safari in south Rhone Valley with a guide who eloquently explained that in Europe dinner is not so much about sustenance, but more about connecting with people. He commented that the company one keeps affects our memories of how the food and wine actually taste. This sentiment was 100% apropos for my visit to the new Cleo at LA live. Its not that the food was bad, per say, and I wouldn’t necessarily deter someone from eating there if they were visiting LA live, but for the most part experiencing the Mediterranean fare at Cleo was plainly unremarkable.

Stark and imperial is one way to describe the ambiance at this new location. Brightly lit, sparsely adorned, and a bit sterile, the feel is much less intimate in comparison to the bold boudoir-esque climate at it’s sister location in Hollywood. Music seems to be playing, but only audibly enough to hear sporadically, making it more of a nuisance than enjoyable. Conversation is difficult, as the acoustics in the room create a loud hum and everyone’s voice becomes one big cacophonous overtone. It’s worth noting however, from the moment of entrance, the staff is very friendly and cheerful, an excellent juxtaposition to the chaos of LA Live.

With no Grenache or Chianti the wine list at Cleo is at the least limited, if not inadequate. Our waiter, Taylor, surmounted our frustrations over the wine limitations by serving a flight of their bold reds, which was accommodating and helpful in making a choice. The margarita was basic, clean and crisp but nothing to write home about. I should mention the management at Cleo will not allow you to buy a drink at the bar and transfer your bar tab to the table tab, which could be very annoying depending on what your plans are for the evening.

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Taylor explained that the plates served would be “tapas style”; small but sharable. Our meal started with an in-house-made hummus topped with extra tahini, cumin, and a few scattered garbanzo beans. The hummus, accompanied by a warm lavosh served in a paper bag, arrived at the table in good time. The presentation was original and witty. The hummus itself was tasty, though once the toppings were mixed in, somewhat thin. Lesson learned: As my dinner partner pointed out, “don’t mix in the toppings”.

For our main course we sampled the scallops and the hangar steak. The scallops were actually delicious (though one was undercooked). The steak itself was flavorful though a bit overcooked for “medium” and did remind me of an in-flight airplane ration, albeit first class not coach. It was somewhat impressive for airplane food but not so amazing otherwise. The accompanying carrot purée, perceivably pumpkin sauce, was quite savory as was the side of fingerling potatoes. The staff politely checked on our table often, and engaged in entertaining but non-invasive conversation. From funny jokes to discussions of calligraphy, water fountains, and Caligula, my company and the staff most definitely made the meal more fulfilling.

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As I took a walk around the restaurant, the clientele seemed to mostly consist of wealthy out of town-ers visiting LA Live, which makes sense. The kitchen was not as organized as others I’ve seen, and the women’s bathroom was a mess with paper towels overflowing everywhere. On my walkabout the hostess asked how I was enjoying my meal and the sous chef smiled as I passed by. The attentiveness of the staff here was definitely a nice touch.

Being somewhat of an introvert I often abide the law of Sartre,  “hell is other people,” but regarding Cleo LA Live the truth seemed contrary. It was the friendly staff and my company that made my evening complete. With that being said, the food was far from inedible and I’d say the prices were comparably moderate for the area. If you are at LA Live anyways it’s potentially better than some other options, but I definitely wouldn’t plan my night around eating there. I give it a C.

xoxo,

QJ

QJ

 

 

 

Nobu Malibu

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Wow! Thats all I can say. WOW! Never mind the other Nobus, this one takes the cake!

During my hiatus I mentioned a visit to Malibu. While laying out at Zuma Beach I thought to myself “self, how great does sitting at Nobu with a good book and a glass of wine sound right now?” Nothing like sitting by the ocean with a glass of chilled wine and reading a book. So I went!

 

The food:

The menu at Nobu Malibu is a two pronged endeavor. The left side is the “typical” Nobu menu available at all locations. The right side is the “malibu” side, where one can find  specialties exclusive to this location. These elite options are nothing short of spectacular.

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The Waygu Beef tacos are actually off the standard side of the menu, but they are one of my favorite so I had to go for it.
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I saw another patron eating this salmon version of Spicy Tuna over crispy rice. Its an off menu specialty and tastes fantastic.
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Delicious house sushi roll
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Salmon Pastrami. So good!
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Yellow tail sashimi is another favorite.

 

What The Heck To Wear To Nobu Malibu:

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As expected with pretty much anything in Malibu, the clientelle here is tré riche and somehow even the patron wearing yoga pants (albeit 200$ yoga pants) looks like a celebrity after hair and makeup. I felt like I needed to be wearing a gigantic ice rink sized diamond cocktail ring to really fit in here. The dress code was mixed so I could have been in denim cutoffs (one teaspoon NOT levis) or a gorgeous flowing maxi dress, as long as I had that cocktail ring I would have felt inconspicuous. However, I was in denim cutoffs (yes one teaspoon) and a tank with no ring. I was not inconspicuous but I did not care. A man actually bought me a drink! So I guess I still got it ;).

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Don’t forget your sunnies if you want to sit patio style! There is an indoor option as well but while the weather is warm, why?

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Sorry, not the greatest shot but it gives the idea of what to wear. I felt this was a good middle ground between expensive yoga attire and a fancy dress. All three choices are fine here. I think maybe because its locals and tourists?

The Ambience:

Seriously? There are no words. If I had to pick words it would be these: relaxing, rejuvenating, romantic.

The experience was so fab I actually returned two nights later with friends (you didn’t think I ate all that food myself, did you?!). I love that one night I was there relaxing and reading a book in denim cut offs, feeling revived and alive,  and the next visit I was with my man sipping cocktails at sunset and feeling sexy and romantic. The place is amazing. No matter your mood, just go. And go hungry because the food is fantastic!

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xoxo

QJ

QJ

Vive La France!

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Last night MSM took me out for a very special treat. We basically went to France and as you know, J’adore France and anything French!

The night started at The Little Door, A French Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of West Hollywood. This quaint abode is possibly the most enchanting eatery I have ever visited (in America anyways). Upon entering the rustic hideaway ensconced in twinkle lights and foliage, I felt I had literally escaped to a courtyard bistro in Cassis. Even the host was legitimately French. We were seated at an intimate round table mid-courtyard. From the airy music to the way in which the dishes were plated, everything about this place felt both romantic and sexy.

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How could one not adore this quaint abode?! I could not help but notice the adorable Celine Nano in the window either. SO CUTE.

Over cocktails and great conversation MSM and I shared appetizers of baby artichoke salad and a Mezze Mediterranean sampler. I chose a vodka rhubarb cocktail that was well balanced between tart and refreshing. MSM had a Moscow Mule (those are quite in fashion right now) that had just that right amount of ginger bite. Yum! The hummus was the best I’ve ever tasted. Even the pita tasted fresh/made in house! True spanikopita is hard to find in LA (as opposed to the trader joes freezer section spinach wedges in filo), but The Little Door basically must have borrowed the recipe from my grandmother. Devine!

SeasonalRhubarb
This delicious drink, The Seasonal Rhubarb, consists of beluga vodka, rhubarb and lemon juice. It was the perfect combination of crisp and tart. Also, its so pretty!

For our main course we shared the lamb stew. Also exquisitely made, this dish was hearty but not too heavy. Small pearl onions with carrot, lamb, chicken, and sausage over quinoa brought the comfort of a home cooked meal. It was nice to be able to converse with MSM and have no vibes of being rushed out for table turn over. That being said, we did not feel like we were waiting forever for anything either. The staff was appropriately polite and attentive.

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Under the starry sky we laughed and cried while the crickets sang songs of love and happy endings. Tickled by the enchanting ambience, we giggled over candles and twinkle lights and ate our delicious meal.

The Colcoa French Film and Televison Festival

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After dinner we were either going to see Christine and the Queens, a french singer that we love, or attend a film at the French Film Festival. Tickets to the former were pretty steep so we opted for the latter and I am SO happy about it because the film we saw, The Wall Crawler, was an adorable tale that only the French could have spun. I adore French films. Honestly, the stories are so good! I can’t put my finger on what the difference is between French and American dramedies that makes them so much better. I feel like the characters in the French variety are just so much more approachable for some reason….

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This darling rom com staring Denis Podalydès is about a man that can literally walk through walls. I love a great French film. I am never disappointed. My ultimate favorite, Hors De Prix, is a must see!

For good measure (and to keep things “french”) we listened to our favorite Christine and the Queens song on the way to the film festival. I’ll include the song here in case ya’ll want to hear something new.

 

WHAT THE HECK TO WEAR ON A WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN FRANCE:

I wanted to look sexy for MSM but I also needed something appropriate in case we had to walk far. I’m often getting talked to regarding my shoe choices. I decided to pair skinny jeans and a nice blouse with my Valentino Rock-Studs because despite the heel they are INCREDIBLY comfortable.

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Top: Joie Jeans: Rag and Bone Bag: Chanel Shoes: Valentino

Thank you MSM for the romantic getaway to France. It was fabulous. And just think, no jet lag or long airplane ride! Who knew France was right here in my back yard?

Bon Voyage my friends!

xoxo

QJ

QJ

 

 

The Essentials.

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Last Saturday was LA Weekly’s presentation of Foodie Heaven, also known as The Essentials. 58 of LA’s top restaurants gathered, along with 41 pairing stations, under one roof to deliver taste-sized portions of their best sellers to the patrons who paid to get in. Animal, Ink, Kogi, Maude…the list continues. You better believe we were there at 6pm on the DOT. No fashionably late to this one! This event was housed in LA’s fashion district. Even more reason to be excited!

The top contenders

Eggplant
Don’t judge a book by its cover. This little eggplant number was beyond delicious. Osteria Mozza

Osteria Mozza’s stuffed eggplant:

A delicately grilled eggplant stuffed with olive oil and herbed garbanzo beans over smoked hummus. MMMMM. Lord have mercy on us, this little piece of nirvana is incomparable. Paired with a light white wine perfectly enhanced this quietly flavored treat. Magnifique!

 

Taco
This plate definitely wins for presentation. The taste was outstanding as well. I look forward to visiting Guerrilla Taco so that I can try more of their unique choices. Guerrilla Tacos

Guerrilla Taco’s Beet Mini Taco:

Bite sized bits of yellow beets marinated in a well balanced consume of olive oil and herbs served over a soft corn tortilla, this treat makes a perfect appetizer. Not too filling and just the right spices to waken the palette.

Cider
The event was full of different wine and beer pairings, but I was most excited by a cider pairing table. I’m somewhat of a sucker for hard cider. 

Grapefruit Beer?

Yes! I can’t stand beer, but this stuff is dangerously AMAZING. If you ever get a chance to try this Schoffenhofer grapefruit weizen, don’t pass up the opportunity.

 

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This mini cup of sweet cream ice cream was the perfect serving size for a little sweet nothing to end the mealJeni’s Ice Cream

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream : Sweet Cream Ice Cream with raspberry sauce

I’m not usually one for ice cream, but seeing how my diet was out the window on this occasion I figured “why not induldge”? Hormone and RBT free, this ice cream was delicious. It was definitely rich but had a good balance of creamy to sweet. The tiny two tablespoon serving with a dollop of berry sauce on top was a perfect ending to a wonderful sampling of foods.

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Beef Tare Tare over an in-house made potato crisp.  Another example of what kind of bites were served at the event. 

The Beneficiary

The proceeds from this event went to Food Forward, a group of Southern Californians that rescue fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste and connect the abundance with people in need. For more information on this amazing non-profit, click here: Food Forward

What to heck to wear to a night of food tasting

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Here I am tasting the different ciders. There was a basque cider that tasted very raw and a Vermount cider that was crisp and refreshing. I’d love to visit this place and do a flight with cheese 🙂  Shacksbury Ciders

Alternative to what you may think, I decided to wear something rather tight on the bottom. This way I knew to take small samples, pace myself, and not actually over-eat. It worked!

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Sweater: Maje  Blouse: Joie  Skirt: Maje  Boots: Stewart Weitzman Highlanders  Bag: Gucci

Unfortunately I didn’t get any great photos of my outfit, but above is a photo showing the gist of it. Honestly I styled this myself and I hate it. I look like a frumpy old maid. Sending a photo to Danielle for a critique- I’m not sure what I did wrong. Either the tops don’t look good on me or they just aren’t good together. And the bottom looked like a solid chunk of black. The skirt is SO pretty, but who can tell? The details were all hidden. FAIL on the outfit 😦

Overall this was a really fun night. I look forward to attending next years event. Though next year I may get VIP tickets so we can start early. A lot of places we wanted to try ran out of food before we could get there!!

xoxo

QJ

QJ