Cooking With A Top Chef

by Sophie Gayot

Remember that dining scene in the movie “The Italian Job?” It was shot at the famous seafood restaurant Water Grill located in downtown Los Angeles. I recently dined there to review the cuisine of newly appointed chef Amanda Baumgarten as she follows in the footsteps of chefs Matt Stein, Allyson Thurber, Michael Cimarusti (now at Providence), and David LeFevre (now at M.B. Post), who have been part of the 20-year history of the restaurant. You can read my review in our Restaurant section.

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Partners in Hell

by: Sophie Gayot

Chef Mark Peel and I both appeared on the same episode of Hell’s Kitchen which aired on October 13th, 2010. We were both on the hit show working as judges, evaluating the same challenge. But when I went to The Tar Pit, his restaurant on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, I was the only one judging what was coming out of his kitchen. Read my review of the restaurant to see if it’s worth making a stop at The Tar Pit.

Confident that his food would pass (after all, he is the chef/owner of Campanile, which has been packed since its 1989 opening), chef Peel wanted to talk about the cocktails that are being crafted behind the bar in my exclusive video interview. I guess he was right, since lots of thought is going into the libations.

Avec Eric (Ripert)

by: Sophie Gayot

I was “Avec Eric” in Los Angeles yesterday. For those who don’t know, ‘avec’ is French for ‘with,’ and Eric is chef Eric Ripert. He had left his stoves at Le Bernardin restaurant in New York, a Top 40 US Restaurants continuously since 2004, so the West Coast could discover his new cookbook Avec Eric, based on his TV show Avec Eric.

Besides 100 easy-to-make-at-home recipes, the cookbook is filled with stories taking place in different parts of the US and countries around the globe. To read the full review of the book, go to the cookbook section. Watch my exclusive video interview with chef Ripert to learn more about him. And, yes, ladies, he is as charming as he is good-looking.

Put on your apron and start cooking Avec Eric!

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Michael Voltaggio Gets “Ink.”

Chef Michael Voltaggio hard at work in the kitchen
Chef Michael Voltaggio hard at work in the kitchen

by Jeff Hoyt

This blog reported when Michael Voltaggio was leaving The Dining Room at The Langham in Pasadena, so we’re happy to announce his latest plans. The Top Chef season 6 winner will be opening a new restaurant called “Ink.” in Los Angeles in mid 2011. It reportedly will occupy the Melrose Avenue space that formerly housed Hamasaku. There’s no word yet whether molecular gastronomy will be on the menu.

Sadly, his restaurant won’t be open in time for Thanksgiving, but many other restaurants are offering a top holiday meal. If you can’t wait to taste Michael’s creations, you can prepare your Thanksgiving bird under his direction. Michael gives instructions on how to cook turkey sous vide and also has a recipe for turkey brine. Either way, pair it with one of our Thanksgiving wines and enjoy your holiday.

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Good Food & Wines Win Over the Rain

Chefs Mark Peel, Susan Feniger and Govind Armstrong with Sophie Gayot
Chefs Mark Peel, Susan Feniger and Govind Armstrong with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot


Despite the threat of rain, which became the reality of rain, zebras, llamas, dromedary camels and horses were out to welcome the more than 2,000 hungry guests who attended Los Angeles Magazine’s The Food Event 2010. It was once again held at the beautiful Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu, home to Malibu Family Wines, which produces Saddlerock and Semler Wines.


Some 80 restaurants and wineries came together for the 5th edition of the event, which donated  proceeds to the Kids Courage Foundation. I sampled quite a few dishes. Chef Warren Schwartz from Westside Tavern in West Los Angeles will be happy to learn that he was the winner of the day. He had prepared a delicious braised short rib crostini on caramelized onions accompanied with a horseradish/chive cream. After talking with Michael McCarty from Michael’s restaurant about his 2007 Pinot Noir from his own winery The Malibu Vineyard (watch my exclusive video), I indulged in white truffle pizza from Tra di Noi Ristorante in Malibu from chef Francesco Velasco (another video to watch). A stop at the new The Capital Grille in West Hollywood confirmed the impression I had from a previous tasting: the combinations of ingredients don’t match. The Indian spices mixed with the mustard oil on the Wagyu beef carpaccio are not a fit; neither are the black pepper mascarpone, lemon oil, and fig essence with King salmon cured with fennel pollen. My suggestion is to keep it simple.

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