Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No. 200: MB Post (Manhattan Beach)

Dining Room
After a blissful, sunny afternoon of rollerblading up and down the South Bay (or as I call it, Red Hermando -- for Redondo, Hermosa, Manhattan & El Segundo beaches,) I decided I might as well dine in the neighborhood too. I have heard some good buzz about the newly-opened MB Post, and had a good impression of David LeFevre's cooking from his previous post @ Water Grill in downtown LA, so I met up with Caroline on Crack to get some impromptu bites & sips.
Since it was Saturday evening and located in downtown Manhattan Beach, I wasn't surprised at how jam-packed the space was. What was a bit more shocking is that there was absolutely no waitlist for walk-ins that night, so our only option if we want to eat without a reservation is at the bar that seats about 15, which of course was packed as well (and already surrounded by other barstool buzzards.) We were slightly peeved, especially since some tables stayed vacant for about half an hour, but decided to go for a round of drinks at least... while keeping a sharp eye out for anyone wrapping up at the bar.
Starter Cocktails
Our first cocktails did LOTS to alleviate our vulturing angst. My Southern Hospitality (front), a bourbon punch with grilled peach, cinnamon and vanilla, was superb. Sweet-smelling without actually tasting sugary, and the fruit + spices were wonderfully balanced against the Eagle Rare. Plus, it was super quaffable! While we would sip on many more tasty cocktails throughout this meal, this is surely my fave of the list. Meanwhile, Caroline on Crack got the equally refreshing & downable Dirge: Corpse Reviver. Both were great for a still-warm summer evening, maybe not-so-great considering our empty stomachs (and me not having eaten for at least six hours.) And indeed, they packed an unexpectedly early wallop.

Just when we finished our first drinks two seats opened up @ the bar, so we swooped in and snagged them. After going through the whole menu (that I'm giving extra kudos for being updated daily plus spontaneously-looking last-minute scribbles!) we decided on sharing three entrees... and another round of drinks.
Savory Nectarine Tart
Our first edible dish was the nectarine tart with whipped ricotta, arugula and candied walnuts (a.k.a. what Caroline and I both yelled "YES!" to when we saw it on the menu.) The dish was a lot more savory than I anticipated, with nectarines lending more of a sweet, fruity acidity to the dish -- almost like an aged balsamic vinegar. And it worked very well with the crisp, peppery greens, gooey, mild-flavored cheese, crunchy nuts. Overall, it reminded me a bit of caprese salad with a decidedly contemporary & Californian twist -- and on top of a buttery, crumbly crust! After we wolfed this down, we both contemplated getting another order...
Corn & Grits
Number two was what I dubbed "Corn & Grits": grilled corn kernels on top of Anson Mills' antebellum white corn grits with fontina cheese and chili. Total comfort dish -- hot, hearty and cheesy, with the occasional welcoming pop of heat & sweetness from the chili and kernels. And somehow, this dish didn't feel super-heavy, which I appreciated since we still have a few more items to eat.
Local Sea Bass
Our entree was local white sea bass (I believe it was from Santa Barbara area), with a 'summer vinaigrette', kalamata olives, basil and squash slices. It was well-prepared: the fish was firm and meaty without being overcooked, and the vinaigrette was well-seasoned and struck a nice balance between oil & acid, but it felt a bit lackluster compared to the first two things we had--maybe because it was a more straightforward dish. Nonetheless, even after the fish & veggies were gone we used our bread to lap up the remaining sauce.
Fleur de Sel Pretzel
Still slightly less-than-full, and in need of something to soak up the alchy, we added an order of their fleur de sel pretzel with David's nuclear horseradish mustard. It hit the spot as a bar food, with a salty, crispy exterior and spongy dough within, with a dip that adds a distinctive bite that's, thankfully, less spicy than the name suggests.
"The Elvis"
Rounding off our meal, at the suggestion of our bartend and ChowBalla (who was dining there that night,) we got the "Elvis" -- a decadent combo of peanut butter mousse, chocolate pudding, caramelized bananas and bacon brittle. Everything tasted great on its own, but when combined it turned into a little spoonful for heaven. Maybe even a little more for me, since Caroline was pescatariany, thus giving me free reign over all the bacony brittle goodness.

And now, back to drinks -- midway through out meal, Caroline and our bartender recognized each other (turns out he worked the Andaz back @ the first Blogger Prom!) which meant more cocktails to sample on top of what we've already ordered! Fortunately, with actual solid food in our stomach we actually held our own ... but still fell shy of finishing everything. As noted before, all the drinks we had were great, and while Southern Hospitality is still a winner for me, here are some others that are noteworthy too:
The "Mo-Pho-Jito", with a Southeast Asian twist on the traditional mojito, with Starr African Rum, ginger, coriander honey topped with zests of kaffir lime. I am already a fan of well-made mojitos (a.k.a. any that's not over-the-top with excessively-smashed mint leaves,) but this one definitely takes it to a whole new level. While there's only a smidgen of ginger's spiciness & the coriander seemed absent altogether, those freshly-grated zests hit the spot!
Virgil's Ascent
"Virgil's Ascent", a Negroni variation with cloves and pomegranate seeds - a great summer take on a drink that's traditionally bolder and heftier. It still has the classic's bouquet of floral & herbal aromas, but the fruit and cloves gave it a delightfully spritzier feel that makes it an easy warm-weather sipper.
Buffalo Belgian Stout
The Belgian-influenced beer list is worth a look too - we wound up splitting a Buffalo Belgian Stout from Brouwerij Van den Bossche, which turned out to be great on its own or with sweets. It definitely has the characteristic chocolatey-coffee notes from the dark-roasted malts, but is considerably lighter in body than most stouts and a tinge of fruity-yeasty notes that made for a complex & provocative brew worthy of sniffing & sipping. Repeatedly.
Manhattan Beach Pier
And after all that eating and drink, we decided it would be wise to take a sobering stroll, around downtown Manhattan Beach and the pier -- and played around with the night-shot settings on our cameras. Which made for an absolutely blissful day (and night) in the South Bay.
South Bay @ Night 1
Though of course next time I'll try to make a reservation or go at a less busy time of the week.

What Do Others Say?

- Thirsty in LA said South Bay residents "can now stay local to enjoy reasonably-priced, sophisticated cuisine and craft cocktails in a sleek and comfortable space."
- Gastronomy said "thirty-some-odd miles is quite a distance to travel for dinner, but the trip was more than worth my while."
- Brad A. Johnson, while not hot on its desserts or communal table seating, summed it up as "a fantastic new gastropub [and] one of the toughest reservations in all of L.A."
- KevinEats deemed it a "great addition to the neighborhood [with] an eclectic blend of the familiar and the new."
- ShopEatSleep (posting for LAist too) said "if you're looking for a casual meal made with high-quality ingredients and expert cooking, then head over . . . we would go back in a heartbeat."
- DarinDines said this restaurant "prepared plates with familiar, yet engaging flavors . . . I could see why this place was so popular."
- Deep End Dining slyly noted that "neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the MB Postmen (and women) from their appointed rounds."

More photos on flickr here
MB Post
1142 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Thursday, July 21, 2011

No. 199: Pacifico's Adventures on Tap & My First Video Bloggin Experience

Nick Helping Himself to Pacifico
I've always toyed around with the idea of video blogging (I absolutely refuse to say 'vlogging' which sounds like I've got phlegm stuck in my throat!) but have been afraid to make the leap and buy the equipment. So when the folks representing Pacifico Claro wanted me to attend their "Adventures on Tap" launch party in L.A.'s Capsule Labs -- and giving me a video camera to document the experience -- it sounds like a great opportunity to dive right into video blogging... and a glass of refreshing beer.

Unfortunately, the camera arrived only a day before the event so I didn't have a lot of time to figure out the set up, mounting and operation. But luckily, the camera fitted perfectly in my backpack's shoulder strap pocket, so I didn't have to do a whole lot of adjustments to capture the scene.

Of course, it was great running into fellow bloggers Victoria, The Minty, Nick and Bill and others at the party -- and we all enjoyed a few refreshing gulps of the south-of-border brew while catching up on L.A. going-ons in the food & drink scene. It made for an absolutely serene weekend...

In addition to an ever-flowing tap, Pacifico also commissioned a specially-decorated keg highlighting the easy, breezy SoCal lifestyle (and the keg itself will be making rounds around local bars in the area, so keep an eye... and a palate... out.)

Photo credit: Pacifico; read more about the decoration process and their LA adventures here

So... there's my first video blogging experience. As I expected, taping was the easy part... going through all that footage afterward and then snipping & trimming & editing is considerably more energy-intensive. But thanks to Pacifico, I look forward to giving this a try for future events too.

And of course, giving their beer another go next time I see it on the menu. Especially if it's on tap in that pinata keg.

To find out more about their "Adventures On Tap" voyage from San Diego to Seattle, check out their facebook chronicles here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No. 198: Delphine (Hollywood)

I'm not usually one to get a case of the Mondays, but if I do -- I definitely know where to go for a post-work cheering up: the Raw Bar @ Delphine, where every Monday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. they have an assortment of specials that's friendly for the palate & the wallet.
Raw Bar Platter
The specials include East Coast oysters for $1 and West Coast ones for $2 (seemingly nonsensical given the travel distance, but the Pacific oysters are considerably larger, meatier, sweeter and definitely worth the extra buck; don't believe me, just shell out the $3 and do a comparison yourself!)

The chilled shrimp (and later, the littleneck clams on half-shell) were solid too, but oysters definitely took center-stage, and likely be the ONLY thing I'm noshing on while sipping a cool, crisp $5 glass of wine (Pinot Grigio or Sparkling Rosé.)
Happy Hour Menu
Another tip, trying to get here between 5 and 7 p.m., when they do their Happy Hour specials as well, giving you a few more bites and drinks to choose from (my bar neighbors raved about their sliced steak sandwich with gruyere and onions, and I personally was tempted to get their take on the poutine with cheddar cheese & short rib gravy.)
And if you have a few more bucks to splurge, their are some noteworthy cocktails to try as well. At a media tasting a while back, I had the chance to try the pictured above Eden w Belvedere Citrus Vodka, Cassis, Lemon Sour, Prosecco and Grand Marnier'd Cherry, which was a delightful warm-weather sipper that's fruity without being overly sweet. I also enjoyed the Rock Garden (w Rock Junmai Daiginjo Sake, Suntory Yamasaki Single-Malt Whiskey, Raspberries, Cinnamon, Agave Nectar and Soda) that was breezy and refreshing with just a hint of smoky-spicy edge.
'Petit Delphine' Tower
Lastly, if you can wrangle a few friends to chip in (or looking to impress a date) -- their (not so) 'Petit Delphine' Fruits de Mer platter for $58, a wonderful assortment of seafood (mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp, ceviche, all topped with a whole crab) that can easily feed five as a satisfying starter... or two as a meal (one can only imagine the size of their even larger 'Grand Delphine' tower...)

Talk about a tasty way to start off the work week!

What Do Others Say?
- LAist was equally impressed with their seafood, noting "that's what you should be eating" here.
- Caroline on Crack and I actually been here before desserts and drinks a while back, which was iffy (I've since revised my opinion for the better after trying their savories too.)
- Vixen's LA Happy Hour found this place's specials "one of the best happy hours I have come across."
- The Minty says "Delphine makes a great dining option pre-theatre"
- Eat L.A. notes that this "spot is [also] good for business meetings, visitors touring Hollywood and post-clubbing hunger pangs."
- Eating L.A. would come back "just for a little Riviera reminder."

Delphine @ the W Hollywood
6250 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

No. 197: Chocolate Afternoon Tea @ Langham (Pasadena)

Table Setting
I've been jonesing to check out Langham Pasadena's Chocolate Afternoon Tea ever since I read Pleasure Palate's post on it; and lucky for me, that time came in mid-April when my friends wanted to splurge and check out this fancier-than-usual tea service too (it's $59 here, considerably higher than our usual ~$30 tea outings.)
Lobby Lounge
Unlike other tea rooms which can be overly stuffy and precious with the decor (a.k.a. lace doilies, tea cozies and porcelain dolls galore!); the one @ the Langham takes place in their expansive, airy Lobby Lounge take takes advantage of the sun with its near-full-length windows. And the chairs and couches were super-comfortable so we didn't have a qualm sitting there all afternoon long.
Our experience started off glasses of Champagne that, to our delight, turns out to be free-flowing for the duration of the afternoon tea -- along with sparkling cider or fizzy pink lemonade. We placed our tea orders and proceeded to scan, gawk (and maybe drool...) at the dessert bar that awaits us.

Their tea selection is on the small side, but give nods to both classic varieties (Organic Earl Grey & English Breakfasts) and dessert-themed twists (Chocolate Mint Truffle & Pear Caramel.) Our group wound up picking Mayan Truffle, Pear Caramel and English Breakfast to share (and, like the sparklies, are all-you-care-to-drink.) Thankfully, the sweet-sounding teas are only sweet-smelling while still tasting very much like teas, and totally enjoyable without any additional sugar and milk (actually, the only tea I used them on was the English Breakfast!)
Tea Sandwiches 1
Tea Sandwiches 2
A little while after the teas, our afternoon tiers arrived. It included five chocolate-themed, open-faced tea sandwiches that were thankfully a lot more savory than the menu suggests. While my friends were enamored with foie gras mousse profiterole with chocolate dust, I'm more impressed with their vanilla-marinated shrimp sandwich with white-chocolate & avocado mousse. Meaty and succulent with just a subtly sweet scent of vanilla and cocoa butter to make it intriguing. I also enjoyed the serrano ham with burrata mousse & 'chocolate caviar'.
The scones (in cocoa-marbled and chocolate chip varieties) were warm, fluffy and delicious with their clotted cream, lemon curd and assorted preserves (the blueberry is my favorite.)

And then, the moment we all have been waiting for... their "pastry presentation", which included:
Chocolate Fountain
a chocolate fountain for fruits and sweets ready for DIY dipping (though I found almond nougats, flavored marshmallows and fruits excellent on their own... particularly the strawberries to accent my Champagne.)
Truffles & Sculpture
truffles served in a chocolate sculpture
Dessert Bar
a mini-desserts buffet of mostly-finger-friendly sweets (the only thing that really required utensils was the white chocolate-green tea panna cotta)
Assorted Sweets
Of course, it's only blogger duty that I wound up sampling at least one of everything offered (the above was the first of three plates I went through) -- they all pretty solid, but my faves included the panna cotta, the chocolate-orange tea bread and cardamom-spiced truffles.

I'll also add a note that throughout the three hours (and beyond) of the tea, the service was exceptional - with frequent refilling of sparklies and teas, allowing us to finish our beverages in the adjacent Tap Room bar when they had to close out the Lobby Lounge after official tea time for a bridal shower, and even giving us some nuts for feeding the resort's squirrely residents when we took a stroll around their gardens afterwards...
Nut-nibbling squirrel
It made for an absolutely blissful afternoon that left us full of food, teas, conversations and plans for future gatherings in this little luxurious oasis that feels strangely so far away from the city (even though we were only 15 minutes away from Old Town Pasadena.)

What Do Others Say?
- LAist managed to squeeze in a visit for this "stately and delightful rituals" during their wildly popular annual "Hats Off to London" promotion, when they offer afternoon tea for its original price of one shilling and six pences (15 cents in US money)
- Gastronomy found "few things in this world more pleasurable than enjoying afternoon tea in a pretty room" here and also loved the chocolate fountain foods sans the chocolate itself
- Life on a Silver Platter notes that this place is "serious about its chocolate" during the tea

More photos in flickr set here

Chocolate Afternoon Tea @ Langham Pasadena
(Sundays noon to 3 p.m.; they also offer a traditional afternoon tea on Thurs. - Sat.)
1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 585-6218


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