By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
40. I'M INTO CHOCOLATE, I MEAN REALLY REALLY INTO CHOCOLATE.
HUNEVEN: Then you must become thoroughly personally acquainted with Sherry Yard's desserts and candies at Spago. Nobody understands both the chemistry and taste of chocolate better, as is evidenced in her perfect, shiny, all-purpose "ten year chocolate sauce" -- so-named because it took her 10 years to perfect it. One of her latest inspirations is to glaze a scoop of her profoundly bittersweet chocolate sorbet with a ginger sauce. Who knew chocolate and ginger were so good together? She's always devising lavish new chocolate desserts, from her chocolate cake with four sauces, to mousse-filled domes. (Two years ago, she made a mousse-filled skyscraper out of bittersweet chocolate -- you had to demolish it to eat it. Eerily enough, she'd named it the Manhattan . . .) Since most of us can't live at Spago, it's important to know about the chocolate sorbet at Alto Palato, the unbelievably good chocolate biscotti at EuroPane(a dark biscuit imbedded with shards of melting dark chocolate), and Axe's brownie pudding -- a substance so dark and rich, it's virtually indistinguishable from pure chocolate frosting. Curiously -- and I didn't believe it until I tried it -- if you want a decent chocolate sheet cake for a party, Solley's Deli in Sherman Oaks is the place to go. Spago Beverly Hills, 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 385-0880. Alto Palato, 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-9271. EuroPane, 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 577-1828. Axe, 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 664-9787. Solley's Deli, 4578 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 905-5774.
41. I KNOW THAT HIGH-END CHEFS HAVE THEIR OWN PURVEYORS AND PERSONAL FARMERS, BUT WHERE CAN I ENJOY GOOD SEASONAL COOKING WITHOUT HAVING TO DRESS UP OR SPEND A FORTUNE? WHAT MID-RANGE CHEFS KNOW THEIR SEASONS?
HUNEVEN: At Ammoon Highland, the food often tastes as if it's been made by a terrific home cook with a great home garden. Indeed, chef-owner Amy Goldenberg brings a Northern Californian sensibility to her kitchen -- her Cal-Med cooking makes use of seasonal ingredients and mostly organic farmers-market produce. Try her purée of white-corn soup with a dollop of pesto or the never-a-dull-bite French lentil salad with roasted beets, chives, arugula, crunchy pepitas and just enough goat cheese. Penne with roasted red and yellow tomatoes and fresh mozzarella doesn't sound exciting, but you can taste the hot sun in the sweet tomatoes, the fresh sweet milk in the cheese. At Pace, in Laurel Canyon, chef owner Sandy Gendel also reveals a fondness for all things fresh, organic and flavorful. A veteran of Napa Valley's Table 29 and Berkeley's Chez Panisse, Gendel makes a big-souled bolognese sauce served on al dente, sauce-grabbing pasta and terrific pizzas with mythic names (the Mystic has wild mushrooms and a tangle of bitter greens; the Electra has shrimp, red onion, tomato and fresh mozzarella). His most popular dinner entrée -- deservedly so -- is planked salmon served with crunchy risotto cakes and bitter baby broccoli. Ammo, 1155 N. Highland Ave.; (323) 871-2666. Pace, 2100 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 654-8583.
42. I'M LOOKING FOR NUEVO LATINO CUISINE. WHO PREPARES IT IN LOS ANGELES?
HUNEVEN:The only person really working the Nuevo Latino angle -- combining Latin American ingredients with classical French preparations -- here in Los Angeles is Xiomara Ardolina, at her Pasadena restaurant, Xiomara. (In this case, we should probably call it Nueva Latina.) Try fresh sea bass on a spicy corn guizo (stew) or pork hash made from shredded, marinated leg of pork, fried yuca, ripe and green plantains, and the classic Cuban garlic sauce mojo de ajo. It's served with black-bean sauce. For dessert, the chocolate bread pudding soufflé is a must -- remember to order it at the beginning of the meal; it takes 45 minutes. And don't forget the mojitos, the famous Cuban rum cocktail made with fresh cane juice squeezed right at the bar. The food at Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's Ciudad restaurant downtown is more Pan-American or Latino-American-fusion cooking: arepas, Colombian pancakelike flatbreads, are served with romesco sauce and Merquez sausage -- both of Spanish origin. A salad of arugula and celery root with roasted pumpkin seeds is a New World/Old World hybrid. There's Cuban-style roast chicken and quinoa fritters and pineapple upside-down cake. Pan American indeed. Xiomara, 69 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 796-2520. Ciudad, 445 S. Figueroa St.; (213) 486-5171.
43. I'M ON A DIET -- HIGH PROTEIN, NO CARBS, BORING, BORING, BORING. WHERE CAN I EAT?
HUNEVEN: I took just such a friend to a churrascarria in Burbank called Picanha, and she was in heaven. You can find a few stray vegetables and lettuce leaves at the salad bar. Otherwise, these chatty guys in big blousy blue shirts and gaucho pants, wielding big knives, slice slabs of pork, beef, lamb and chicken off mighty skewers fresh from the fire right onto your plate. It's slick and corporate and silly -- plus, all the meat is well done or almost well done, which is traditional in Brazil -- but it's a show, and there's nothing like the deprivation of a diet to make a plain piece of meat taste like ambrosia. Meanwhile, Gardel's -- or Carlito's Gardel -- on Melrose is an Argentinean grill that's also all-meat all the time. If your diet allows a little chimmichurri (a sauce of garlic, ground fresh herbs and oil), you're really in luck. Picanha, 269 E. Palm Ave., Burbank; (818) 972-2100. Carlito's Gardel, 7963 Melrose Ave.; (323) 655-0891.