Travel / September 13, 2012

On the Road Again: Los Angeles

Lobster rollLast year we traveled to Los Angeles to pour wine at the first annual Los Angeles Food & Wine.  We had an unexpectedly amazing good time.  So this year, when we were given the opportunity for The Wine Sisterhood to pour at Around the World in 80 Sips in Los Angeles, it was a unanimous YES!  We even talked @napawinelady into letting us go a day early so we could do a little exploring (and by exploring, I guess we mean to say eating).  Our reasoning – to share our finds with the Sisterhood.  Here are some must places to visit on any trip to the City of Angels.

First stop after landing and retrieving the rental car was a spot in downtown LA for lunch, Bäco Mercat.  This place was on our radar list because it had just received a nod from Bon Appetit magazine as one of the Hot 10 new restaurants in America

The ToronBäco Mercat is the home of the “bäco,” the signature flatbread sandwich which looks like a cross between a pizza, taco, and a gyro that was developed by chef Josef Centeno.  The food is inspired by both Western and Eastern Mediterranean dishes.  The lunch menu features all kind of foodie delights like Southern California grown vegetables, the “baco” sandwiches, and “coca” crispy flatbreads.  Since we were starving, and since the restaurant derived its name from the famed sandwich, we of course ordered a “baco”.  His name was “The Toron” and he consisted of oxtail hash, cheddar tater, and horseradish.  After our first bite of the “baco” we were already making excuses of why we would need to visit LA again, and if we did what would we order next time when dining at Baco Mercat?  Of course to keep it all balanced we also enjoyed a chopped salad with green goddess dressing and a side of blistered okra.  Everything we ate was absolutely delicious!

To drink we ordered white wine by the glass of two varietals we had never tried before: Iraqi Oliver from Hungary and green sauvignon from Slovenia.  Both were nice crisp white wines, perfect for a sunny afternoon lunch.

After lunch we headed west to check in to our hotel, get some work done, and rest before dinner.  This trip, our home base was the Hotel Palomar in Westwood.  Centrally located for our event in Beverly Hills, to “go Hollywood,” or get a tan in Santa Monica.  Too bad we didn’t have time to explore all the local options!

PiccaAfter a lunch like that, we were grateful that our dinner wasn’t until 9 p.m. that evening so there was plenty of time to find our appetite again!  For dinner we ventured over to Beverly Hills to Picca, a Peruvian Cantina.  We were very excited to eat here because the cuisine was described as modern Peruvian cuisine with a Japanese flair and the chef, Ricardo Zarate, was crowned as Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2011.   As we have told you before, we love to dine family style so we can try as many dishes as possible, and small plates are perfect for that!  Just a little fact – “picca” means “to nibble.”

Picca was bustling with action as we headed straight to the bar to order the official drink of Peru – Pisco Sours.  The drink can be described as smooth and shippable, to rough and fiery.  We liked the fact that our drinks were decorated with a cute “p.”

Pisco SourNow, on to the small plates.  Our absolute favorite thing that was brought to the table was the causa spicy tuna.  Think of it this way, all the delicious elements of a spicy tuna roll, but instead of rolled in rice the mixture is served on top of a perfectly rectangle mashed potato called a causa.  It was a unanimous decision that maybe spicy tuna should be eaten no other way! 

We also tried the following small plates (which were shared between four of us):
papa rellana: potato stuffed with slow-cooked beef and boiled egg, topped with rocoto walnut aioli; ceviche crocante: halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari; oysters a la chalaca: pan fried oysters, cherry tomatoes sarsa; chicharron de costillas: crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla.

Wine Sisterhood Approved: ABSOLUTELY!

Tip:  While the server was very helpful in choosing an array of dishes, they recommended far too many things and we ended up having to cancel half of the dishes we ordered.  Take your time.  Order some dishes.  See how you feel, and then order some more if you are still hungry.

After two exciting meals it was time to get some exercise, so the next morning we headed out to hike Temescal Canyon, near Pacific Palisades.  This hike is not for the faint of heart, but once you reach the summit it is well worth the view of the Pacific Ocean stretching before you.  The hike takes about an hour and a half so plan accordingly.  And don’t forget to bring along a bottle of water, there is a long climb ahead of you and you will be thirsty!!!

Our last meal of the trip was a late lunch at Farm Shop, a quaint California-inspired spot, located in the Brentwood Country Mart.  Brentwood Country Mart is a barn-themed landmark that has been around since 1948 with quaint shops and lots of good places to grab a bite.  Farm Shop is half gourmet retail store selling things like charcuterie, cheese and caramel corn; and half restaurant focusing on local/seasonal ingredients.  The menu changes daily and they serve breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner served family style.  Chef-owner Jeff Cerciello has quite the Napa Valley credentials and has previously worked with Thomas Keller as Culinary Director for Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc and French Laundry. 

Lobster RollFor lunch we decided to keep it simple and share the Avocado Hummus sprinkled with Pomegranate and Nigella seeds, the Lobster Roll, which came with perfectly cooked fries and homemade Catsup and Crispy Artichokes, served with golden beets and burrata cheese – a combination we would never have dreamed to put together.  Everything served dishes was simple, fresh, and had amazing flavors that paired perfectly with the Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc wine from Paso Robles, CA that we ordered.  A blend of four white Rhône varietals: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne. The wine, like most wines of the Southern Rhône, featured floral and stone fruit aromatics with crisp acid and minerality.  All  in all, Farm Shop was the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch and a glass of wine.  Next time, we plan on doing the family style dinner!

People travel to Los Angeles for many reasons; to sun bathe on the beach, mingle with movie stars at posh restaurants and night clubs, and shop on the famed Rodeo Drive.  With the Wine Sisterhood crew we tend to focus on food and wine.  And in this regard, Los Angeles once again was a bright and shiny star – just like those famed stars that line the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Until next time…

Wine Sister Natalie


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