Family Reunion

 

 

 

D.O.C.G

Cosmopolitan

3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South

(702) 698-7000

$$$

Once in a while, I’m reminded of the serious perks that come with my job. Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself and realize that the bottles of Veuve, the italian leather wristlets and the fabulous comped dinners are NOT something of the norm.  Makes the endless hours on the Blackberry, the back to back conference calls and the putting out the proverbial fires worth it…alright, almost.

But, the best perks, are the ones that are unexpected…the ones that are extended to you out of the goodness of someone’s heart…simply because they want to invite you to THEIR dinner table…because they view you as FAMILY.

After a long 5+ days in this little known place called VEGAS, I was exhausted…dirty…felt worn down and had the imprint of my Blackberry forever pressed into the skin of my palm.  My client and I had been looking forward to the promise of a free drink & app graciously extended to us all day…a cocktail and a cheese platter, what could be better?

That’s when we met the family over at D.O.C.G, the Scott Conant creation connected to his world-renown Scarpetta, located in the Cosmopolitan hotel. 

This rustic pizza and wine bar, famously named after the Italian wine origin, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantitaenvelopes you with a warm sense of “coming home” with the dim reddish-yellow exposed lighting and the thick wooden benches & tables.

Couples leaned in close over bottles of their Italian reds…the garish sequined wrapped groups of young twenty-somethings shared gourmet truffle pizzas and laughed over the bottles they had spilled & men they had charmed the night before…

We take our place at the bar and are instantly greeted by a friendly (and clearly Italian) manager who immediately takes our hands (er, ENGULFS our hands)in his  and genuinely thanks us for coming to experience the place he fondly calls “home”.  The look of pride washes over his face as we gush over the ambiance, the bubbly prossecco and the smells of pesto and truffle oil wafting from the exposed brick pizza oven at the back of the restaurant. 

Still holding our hands, and still beaming, he invites us back to the kitchen where we meet the head chef, (um, HELLO HANDSOME), and we proceed to observe the thick pasta being prepared and cut by hand, the fresh vegetables being sliced and seasoned, the finalized dishes being observed and perfected by each chef…It was a well-oiled machine but there was nothing robotic about it.  Each chef was joking with each other, smiling and clearly proud of each dish they placed in front of the head chef for inspection.

We make our way over to Scarpetta, the romantic dining experience side, with ceiling to floor windows overlooking the fountains of the Bellagio.  At this time, two more owners have joined us…each chiming in with their own stories of previous celeb diners and famous parties.  We make our way over to the Chef’s table.  A private room overlooking the fountains and dubbed the “second best seat in Vegas”, falling shortly behind the corner table at the Paris Eiffel tower.

A little secret–the glass is one way overlooking the kitchen…which means you can observe the chefs prepare your dinner but they can’t see you…UNLESS, you happen to test this little theory and press your unmentionables against the glass.  If you see a chef smirk, now you know why…

At this time my client and I were ITCHING to try some of the famous dishes…and, as a “welcome to the family”….our gorgeous (er, GRACIOUS) chef laid out a spectacular feast with all of the highlights from both the D.O.C.G and Scarpetta menus.

WARNING: Amateur photos below…

We started with an expansive charcuterie platter with some of the finest meats and cheeses all imported from a particular New York cheese cellar (me? Name drop?).  Before we could even blink, the platter was whisked away and before us was placed two bacon-wrapped giant prawns sprawled out on firm salty lentils which had absorbed the smokiness of the bacon.

And the balls…no, not garlic knots (see my post about C&O Trattoria)…but SAUSAGE STUFFED GREEN OLIVES LIGHT BATTERED AND SERVED IN A MINI SKILLET.  Blasphemy, I know, but Lord please forgive me.

We held on to those for dear life as our 3rd course was presented…grilled octopus in a light broth and their famous Scialatielli Pasta “arrabbiata” with succulent chunks of fresh lobster & shrimp.  We then switched to a lighter pink prossecco, slightly unzipped the backs of our body-con dresses

(Vegas’ finest) and thought we were defeated…And that is when they rolled out the white truffle pizza with a coddled egg that is broken and spread before us at the table.  Appropriately entitled the “D.O.C.G. Pizza” this transformed my opinion of pizza…seriously.  It was a masterpiece, a feast, a DELICACY.  I was sold.

I couldn’t end this post without a little shout-out to the head chef’s personal creation that we were able to test & give feedback before it’s officially added to the menu.  If he doesn’t add this dish immediately, then I’m personally wringing his neck.  Squid ink pasta with finger-size pieces of fresh king crab. I…mean…heaven. If you haven’t had a squid ink dish before, or are squeamish by the blackish color, then this is the dish to break in your palate.

We hugged, we kissed, we never stopped embracing each other…our new found family brought together over amazing food and wine.

They had opened their doors and gave us a first hand experience of joining the D.O.C.G family.  With one last SALUTE over a sweet walnut port for dessert they sent us off with a Ciao and a kiss.

I can’t wait until the next family reunion. 

CIAO BELLA!

-Dine & Dish LA

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Jay-Walkin’…

 

Susan Feniger’s STREET

742 N. Highland

Los Angeles, 90038

323-203-0500

$$

I’m what my friends call the ‘perpetual monogamous’.  Not necessarily just when it comes to men, although I am notoriously known to cling on a few months too long to the usual actor (er, bartender) with the really great set of abs.  BUT, it would be very fair to say that I’m adverse to change.  If something works, I’ll wear it out till it’s barely ticking/driving/fitting…well, you get the point.

So I took a chance.

Yes, yours truly, said YES to a date with an EMPLOYED, clean-cut, COLLEGE EDUCATED, East-Coaster with an adventurous taste for food & amazing dimples. I felt like a kid bringing home a paper with a bright red ‘A+’ at the top.  I called my friends, my mom, a few clients…and all nodded with acknowledgment that this gal was growin’ up.

He called. He made plans. He made witty banter about a few jokes we shared the night we met. AND, he suggested an incredible gem of a restaurant cultivated by the quirky Food Network chef Susan Feniger; STREET.

CONTACT THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES– I have found a gentleman…in Los Angeles.  I immediately pictured our monogrammed dinner plates.  Ok, that was a little much…everyone knows that I’m more of a monogrammed towel person. Obviously.

We pull up to the trendy wooden facade with the bright neon words ‘Street’ on the front. The trendiness continues as we walk inside and we are met by a friendly bartender with an array of fresh fruit & herbs for the ever so trendy concoctions. We are escorted immediately to our table on the patio amidst several other “first-daters” and are pleasantly surprised that they are very…non…trendy?  No tiny bandaged cocktail dresses, no extreme V-necked button downs…(yes, I just judged you, deal with it).

Tiny tables, very little decor besides the art-deco like stick figure drawings on the walls…it’s clear the focus here is the food.  Oh, and my increasingly cute date who I’ve just discovered shares the same love of skiing.

 

FINE–on to the food:

Classic tapas-style plates, all in the intricately complex flavor that Feniger  is so known for on TV.  But, we quickly learn that three dishes…ah hem…four…was quite enough even for two hefty (for lack of a better word) foodies. Two fully stuffed pork shoulder enchiladas smothered in corn masa.  Four thickly cut pieces of shrimp lumpia in a crunchy Filipino-style roll with a spicy (yet oh hello, so sweet) chili sauce.  A full-size helping of mushroom ravioli with fried chickpeas and a small drizzle of mint yogurt sauce.

I’m going to admit, before I continue and describe the last dish we over-indulged on, that I’ve never been a fan of mint yogurt sauce. Something about the bland, luke-warm, texture that your eyes really want to be ice-cream but it’s really more like putrid yogurt…I’m painting a great picture here, eh?  But Feniger mastered this sauce with a *hint* of mint and the creamy texture worked in perfectly with the coarsely cut mushroom.  It was perfection.  So, definitely don’t let this scare you away.

We then let out deep sigh, pick up our forks, and in between the easy-flowing conversation about family and our interests, we start in on the Singapore street noodles.  Now I’ve never been to Singapore, but if these noodles are considered their version of our LA taco trucks, then call my travel agent because I’m already on the way to the airport.  The dish was spicy with the madras curry sauce with stringy and yet full of flavor noodles.  Thick chunks of rock shrimp and marinated pork loin made this more of a delicacy then a pasta dish. Oh, and then it was stir-fried to perfection.

And, hello dimples.

As he politely drove me home, small hug goodnight, and the follow-up text that he would like to see me again, it was clear that both of us were pleased by our choices.  Not only of the dinner, but of the chance we both took to step out of our comfort zones and exchange numbers over a few beers too many the weekend before.

Change is good.  I immediately went out and purchased a new ottoman for my apartment.  Thinking about tackling replacing my worn-in futon with the hole in the right seat.

Nah, I think I’ll keep it just a little longer…it’s what they call ‘character’ right?

 

-Dine & Dish LA

 

 

Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 6:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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You little Tart

TART

115 S. Fairfax Ave.

Los Angeles, 90036
(323) 556-260

Oh the headache…

Sunday morning after a long and adventurous LA weekend…You slowly prop yourself half up in bed and check your phone, one eye open, and see the mass text  between a few of your girlfriends;

 “BRUNCH NOW”.  

The last thing you want is the greasy side of hash browns, the slimy excuse of an over-easy egg, and the cheap knock-off of what is commonly known as a mimosa served in scratched plastic champagne glasses…(LA natives, you may or may not know of the place I’m referring to…starts with Saddle, ends with Ranch).

So with one hand you respond back the four letter fail-proof location;

“TART. 30 Minutes”

You grab your biggest pair of sunglasses and don your most comfy maxi skirt and head out the door (how cliché), soon to be welcomed by the cheery blue stucco exterior and the world’s most friendly wait staff (and least judgmental, they smile and nod quietly in understanding as you roll in slowly with the rest of your crew).

The Dine & Dish must-have here is their homemade country-style hash; two non-greasy overeasy eggs, shredded pastrami & chicken sausage, mixed over thinly cut hash browns, assorted bell peppers and onions.  It’s in a friendly and non-threatening bowl, guaranteed to soothe even the most queasy of Sunday Morning stomachs.

If this isn’t your jam, TART also has a great selection of very “LA-approved” brunch items such as  egg white scrambles with spinach, sides of fruit and ala carte items.

Sorry frat boys, no all-you-can-drink mimosa here–ladies sip their Strawmosas or John Daly’s (clever, eh?) for the right amount of the “hair of the dog”.   Slowly, you return to normal and stretch out on one of their wooden booths, taking in the sun on their outdoor enclosed patio, surveying your fellow “morning afters”.

One thing to note, TART is connected to The Farmers Daughter hotel so don’t be alarmed when you see the constant flow of people through the courtyard.  (Uh hello, prime people watching).  And this eatery also took on their neighbors country decor & key dishes–warm & friendly–however, my fellow southerners, do NOT try the grits for you will be sorely disappointed.

I have to add that the menu has taken a slight plunge with the absence of one of my favorite appetizers; pepper encrusted gator tail poppers.  As a two-time foursquare Mayor, one would think they could honor my simple request to bring it back.

Till we dine again,

Dine & Dish LA

 

 

Published in: on October 7, 2011 at 1:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Over the River…

The Ivy

113 N Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles,  90048

(310) 274-8303

$$$$

It’s coming up on the weekend and as you dream at your desk of all the fabulous beach days and the happy hours you can now partake in, your parents call.  They are coming in to town and they want to have the grand tour of how their “baby girl” is doing in the big bad city of Los Angeles.

What to do?  You quickly scan your brain (and the internet) for the best/appropriate places to take your parents to eat.  What says “oh hey, yes I can survive on my own thank you very much” but yet, “I wanted to save this very special (and slightly out of my reach) place just for you”?

The Ivy.  The white picket fenced cottage-like restaurant nestled between the finest of Beverly Hills shops.  Grandma’s house meets 90210.  Women in their business suits enjoying dinner on their own dime, men in their ties and slightly ruffled hair as a result from a long day at work; each specimen wearing that proud look of “independence”.

Welcome home.

I couldn’t take credit for this one.  My mom had actually researched it and came knocking on my door clutching a handful of reviews as if to convince me to go to dinner at this well-known affable restaurant.  Little did she know that she had me at “Robertson Blvd”.

Sterling silver heavy utensils, fresh flowers at every table, and the country-french decor is a nice change to the every day sterile and modern Hollywood restaurant.  We settled into the floral upholstered chairs and are enveloped by the smell of, wait a minute, is that fried chicken?  Ah yes, comfort food.

We asked for an extra candle so we could scour over the menu to find the source of that delectable scent in the two room cottage (apparently they were aiming for mood lighting but we found ourselves quite blind) and discovered the source; juicy selected cut of prime rib paired with creamy gnocchi and leaks. Or, perhaps it was the the quarter cut halibut steak seated happily in a bed of baby steamed broccoli and sliced portobello mushroom.

We order both, pick off each other’s plates, and still have enough for tomorrow’s meal (of course throwing in what was left of the thickly sliced italian bread from the bread basket…our family clears our plates).  I walk out feeling slightly giddy with salt and cream.  It was very overpriced, but can you really put dollar sign on nostalgia and family?

Until we eat again,

Dine & Dish LA

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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