Communal Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago brings the familia to the table

Regulars and newbies make a night of the Northern Italian restaurant’s authentic Morso Della Bestia feast of a whole animal

When you think of Italian hospitality, you think of the kind of warm familia ambience that welcomes guests at Locanda del Lago; and when you think of the heartiness of a satisfying Italian dinner, it is a table filled with generous servings of meat, pasta and wine, like that of the restaurant’s monthly feast, Morso Della Bestia. If you are not familiar with this Italian tradition, translated as “Bite of the Beast,” it is a banquet that is the epitome of Italian cuisine – a celebration of food, family, friends and life, Italian style.

The last Thursday of every month, Lago hosts this communal, four-course dining experience, featuring a different animal roast each month, along with rustic Northern Italian dishes for which the restaurant is known, with recipies originating from Italy’s Bellagio on Lake Como, an homage to the hometown of restaurant’s founder.  Of course, to complement the meal, diners may also select wine pairings.

As is the case with all of the menu items at Lago, the fare is fresh-sourced locally from farmer’s markets and other purveyors with whom the restaurant has long-term associations, as this business places a high value on trusted relationships, doing business the way it was done in the Old Country.

The restaurant usually seats between 30 to 40 guests to this RSVP-required event, at which the main course has featured whole-animals, such as boar and venison, or on occasion lesser daunting beasts, like rabbit, goose, or even tuna. Chef George Pincay endeavors to use all parts of the animal for a variety of dishes, featuring generous portions, served throughout the night, giving time between courses for guests to pace themselves and preserve an appetite while they socialize.

 

 

Guests who come as couples or even solo diners will find by the end of the evening they have made new friends; and in fact, one group of wine aficionados has attended the event together for many years, adding to their club and their friendship circle each year.

The staff have become part of the meal as well, with the owner, West Hooker-Poletti, and his wife, Karin Fumagalli, and general manager Megan Heritage, who is lovingly referred to by staff as the restaurant’s “soul,” often joining the gathering, and many regulars call their servers by name, and joke like family, such as one patron who elbows Lago’s tall, lean and handsome resident mixologist, Mirco Pallotti, in the ribs and teases, “I order the six packs, but he wears them.”

While Morso Della Bestia is one of Locanda del Lago’s most popular events, the restaurant hosts an ample crowd most nights, with the restaurant dining room and outdoor seats filled nightly at the location on Santa Monica’s bustling Third Street Promenade.

If the Bite of the Beast is not your taste, say if you are vegetarian, Lago hosts another night, Meatless Mondays, that may be more your style.  Or if you prefer to stick to libations, check out the bar for local flavor and stocked with a curated wine list of more than 400 vinos from across Italy, along with organic, local liquors. The restaurant keeps a full calendar of events and celebrations and is open to serve its extended family of regulars, tourists and new friends seven days a week.

Locando del Lago is located at 231 Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica. Street parking and several Santa Monica public parking structures are walking distance, with 2-hours free or $3 flat rate on weekends.

 

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Fred 62 giving the people what they want to eat, for 20 years

Iconic Los Feliz diner serves up everyday, anytime food for everyone

I was afraid my picky, eats-like-a-bird 10-year-old son would not find anything to nosh on at Fred 62.  Trained by his health-conscious dad at a young age to have a taste for only healthy, gourmet food, he generally scoffs a restaurant fare, but we were in for a huge surprise.

For a sure bet, we ordered one of my son’s favorite appetizers, Crispy Calamari, served with sriracha and remoulade; and for the grown-ups we got the Avocado Toast with chili flakes and Chickpea Fritters.  But when the food arrived, the tables were turned, and my son devoured the toast and fritters first, then did damage on the calamari, and that just whetted his appetite.

His eyes lit up as he slurped up the Noo Deli noodles, a steaming bowl of vermicelli, in spicy lemongrass broth with Thai veggies, which was followed by a “freshwich” of seared ahi tuna, wrapped in rice paper and served with a Japanese dipping sauce.

He then began sharing off our plates of “Pastramid” Short Rib combo of short rib slow smoke short ribs with coleslaw, jalapeno pickles and spicy mustard on a potato roll, served with French fries, and Moroccan Tajine Eggs with harissa, Castilian sausage, and green olive tapenade. He polished it all off with a Chocolate Peanut Butter shake.

All of this food was consumed by a boy who basically eats every other day.  He declared, “Let’s definitely come back to this place.” And of course, we will have to, as we didn’t even try the famous griddle treats, like the Bearded Mr. Frenchy, a fluffy brioche French toast with cornflake crust, or the hearty comfort food meals like the Partridge Family, a dinner of pan-friend chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, gravy, sautéed greens and a mini waffle.

 

This 20-year-old funky retro-themed restaurant, easily recognized on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz by its bright lime green exterior and orange awning, is known as LA’s coolest all-nighter diner, open 365 days a year, where hard partiers can get munchie-satisfying delights from the Stoners & Drunkards menu, like F-Bomb Mac n Cheese Balls, Falafel Sliders or Frito Pies, anytime in the wee morning hours.

 

It is a rare diner that has a cook called a “chef” and that promises food prepared “mindfully and with care,” which is what makes Fred 62 an anomaly in the diner universe. Owner and chef, Fred Eric, had a unique vision of Fred 62 when he opened the restaurant with the concept of a diner serving food that people want to eat every day, serving it all day and all night, every day of the year.  Two decades later, he’s still cooking with gas and expanding his menu of enlightened diner food with more healthy menu offerings for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free patrons.  For those who love a surprise, he offers daily “Fred Plate” specials.

After enjoying a meal at Fred 62, make a day of exploring the hood, including a variety of eclectic stores selling everything from clothing and rare books to housewares and jewelry made by local artisans, or stop in for a flick at the vintage cinema house, Los Feliz 3, or see a live production at Skylight Theater.  Fred 62 is located at 1850 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles.

Eagle Rock’s Turningfire puts a new spin on rotisserie

Chic eatery turns up the heat with flavorful rotisserie cuisine

Turningfire Modern Rotisserie in Eagle Rock is a year-old restaurant with a fire-brand new concept that is skewering traditional rotisserie cuisine. Michael Rolibi came up with the idea of a rotisserie restaurant with a modern twist in a setting he calls premium casual, which is a tic up from the newly branded fine casual category.

Rolibi, a career changer who achieved enough success in his first professional life to pursue his passion of opening an eatery, is the author of most of the restaurant’s eclectic menu of unexpected taste combinations. Rolibi’s original recipes includes rotisseries of free-range poultry, natural pork and beef dishes that are flavored with proprietary, made-from-scratch freshly ground spice blends, marinades sauces, dressings and condiments.

 

Besides the rotisserie entrees, which can be ordered up a la carte or as a meal plate with a protein, side and a salad, Turningfire makes mincemeat of stodgy old-school meatballs with a modern blend of pork and beef with added crushed fresh tomatoes and a topping of ricotta salata, for the most-tastiest meatballs ever. The menu also features a short list of sandwiches, among which is the most popular chilled Cali Gold, with lemon lavender chicken, mesclun, orange shallot vinaigrette, avocado spread, lemon aioli and tomato.

Other twists on traditional fare include LA Street fries, which are thick hand-cut potatoes covered with frilled chile corn, pickled red onion, cotija cheese crumble, grilled scallions and cilantro lime creme.

Despite what the rotisserie namesake implies, many of the restaurant’s dishes are vegetarian, including flatbreads and a number of gourmet salads loaded with ingredients like purple kale, golden beets, toasted pepitas, watermelon radish, roasted white yams, spicy pickled carrots, jicama and other out-of-the-box, not out-of-the-bag bag veggies and fruits. There’s also an excellent kids’ menu with healthy versions of approachable favorites, like chicken cheese quesadilla, served on whole wheat tortilla.

Inside, the restaurant impresses with a contemporary and clean design, with textured concrete floors, light spilling through a glass brick front, and lofty wood-beam ceilings.  The space is sleek but cozy with about 30 duets, foursomes and bar tables of butcher-block-style table tops surrounded by iron modern chairs, with the furnishings and trims all painted in earth tones.

The restaurant’s interior, envisioned by North Hollywood designer Janelle Wright, achieves its purpose in making food colors pop against the muted color palette, enhancing the appeal to the human palate.  The chic style is a nod to the trendy tastes of the Eagle Rock neighborhood, an area that is gentrifying so fast that restaurant concepts are popping up on a nearly monthly basis on the main strip of Colorado Boulevard.

Turningfire is located at 2146 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, and is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.

 

Chill at an outdoor movie or concert, LA style

Only in LA

Mild temperatures keep LA outdoor nightlife lively into fall

LA outdoor nightlife

Southern Californians don’t know how lucky they are. While East coasters are storing their patio furniture for the long winter, SoCal dwellers can enjoy shirtsleeves outdoors for months to come. Even at night, when temperatures drop to their lowest, a sweater or light coat is all one needs for a comfortable evening under the stars. So rejoice Angelenos, and enjoy the bounty of alfresco activities into autumn, such as these venues and events that define LA outdoors nightlife.

I-See-a-Bowl

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in LA who would argue with you that the Hollywood Bowl is the most fabulous place to experience an outdoor concert. With a full summer series that trails into early fall, the Bowl hosts international musical headliners, such as this season’s lineup of artists including Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Pentatonix, Kool & the…

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Fat Sal’s is a bro’s hero

Unabashed fat-proud sub and burger restaurant serves up what every guy wants

As the name Fat Sal’s Deli implies, you would not expect to find quinoa salads and kale here. This is a burger and sub joint. And also chili, and shakes. The subs are, well, fat, some of them filled with everything but the kitchen sink. If you think I’m exaggerated, get a gander of the Fat Jerry, loaded with shaved rib-eye, French fries and a fried egg on top.

 

This is the anti-salad place. If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, no worries, the fat fries can be a meal in themselves. Take the buffalo chicken cheese fries, which are topped with chopped chicken fingers, melted cheddar and mozzarella, buffalo hot sauce, and blue cheese dressing. Talk about a hot mess, this is a fat mess, and delicious and fattening and decadent by design.

As evidenced by the majority of the patrons being guys, this place is a bro hang out, with most of the women tagging along with their dates, though there were a few females indulging in some satisfying subs, perfect for a girls night out. For those trying to watch their figures, there is an Albacore Tuna sandwich and a token Grilled Cesar Salad option.

At the Fat Sal’s location in Hollywood, the open air patio and HD stereo system filling the air with R-rated rap music to the nods of their target crowd of urban hipsters, and the chunky concrete slab table tops, metal stools and wooden booths create fitting ambiance for a fast casual meal of hearty hamburgers and subs. It’s a place one can enjoy going to occasionally, but if you made it a habit, you wouldn’t be able to get out the door.

Serving up prime rib and inspiration Scottish style at Tam O’Shanter’s

Feasting on history at LA’s oldest running restaurant

Tam O’ Shanter is most famous for being the oldest running restaurant in Los Angeles, and if you know anything about the fickle LA culinary crowd, you know this is a notable achievement.

Besides its historic longevity, this legendary Scottish-pub-inspired eatery is renowned as a celebrated venue for special family gatherings, anniversaries, office parties and other events, accommodating its clientele within the rooms of its storybook-house walls, with a variety of dining spaces that offer either a subdued or festive atmosphere or something in between, for anything from a romantic dinner for two to a boisterous office party for 20.


Patrons in-the-know often request to sit at the Tam’s busiest booth, table #31, where Walt Disney frequently sat with his team of a imagineers and doodled his ideas on the table, where his sketches have been preserved. It is said that Disney’s visits to the thatched-roof burnished wood Tudor-style facade, which houses a labyrinth of banquet rooms and tucked-away private booths, inspired some of the buildings and rides at Disneyland and Disney world.


As far as the restaurant’s Scottish pub fare menu, the prime rib has a reputation as one of the best around Los Angeles, owing to the aging process, whereby the meats are hung to dry for weeks and kept at a precise temperature to achieve ideal curing, which accounts for the mouth-watering tenderness and flavor of the cut. Besides the steaks and chops, the Tam is a favorite for its signature dishes like the Toad in the Hole, Yorkshire Pudding, English Triffle dessert, and of course, their artfully distilled and aged single-malt scotch drinks.

 


Because the restaurant is owned by Lawry’s, founded in 1922 by the owners of the esteemed restaurant group, diners may expect a certain quality and ambiance, which the Tam delivers, but with distinction.  Tam O’ Shanter’s is as independent as its famed namesake. And in case you were wondering about that, name comes from a fabled Scottish soldier, the eponymous plaid wool-bonnet wearing hero of a poem written in 1790 by Scottish lyricist Robert Burns. In honor of its historical inspiration, the servers at the Tam wear plaid kilts and knee socks, and as a salute to the finest drink of the land, the restaurant features a Wall of Scotch, with more than 102 single malts and blends from distilleries around the world. 


The Tam remains one of the few institutions in Hollywood that has lasted through the city’s many restaurant fads and fancies, and by Hollywood standards it is a legendary superstar on the restaurant scene, where it has continued to age gracefully for the past eight decades, bringing many generations of families together to celebrate reunions and anniversaries, and it has been the backdrop for many gatherings of celebrities and famous love affairs, where gentlemen have proposed on one knee, couples have raised a glass to toast to anniversaries of their lasting love, and families have come together for reunions and milestone celebrations.

After all, if you are going to choose a place to visit each year to commemorate a special occasion, you might as well choose a place that has been there forever and will likely stand until its walls fall down.

Centuries-old Kombucha bursts on drink scene

America’s latest craze in probiotic drinks satisfies edgy tastes with new flavors

Last month New York Times readers called out the newspaper over its coverage of bubble tea, which was becoming “mainstream,” commented a writer, seemingly unaware that the drink has been popular in America for nearly a decade. The same could be said for Kombucha.

For many this probiotic fermented tea is an exciting new elixir, offering the promise of untold health benefits, and requiring an acquired taste. While kombucha may just be getting its 20 minutes in the US, the lightly effervescent, yeast- and good-bacteria-laden drink is thought to have first been imbibed in 220 BCE, and for centuries it has been a favored therapeutic beverage in Manchuria, Russia and eastern Europe.

While some may be late to the tea party, kombucha companies have stayed on top of the trend, with new inventive flavors bursting onto the scene to suit every adventurous taste.  KeVita has brewed up some of the most creative batches of kombucha on the market, with its newest flavors including blueberry basil and roots beer.

“We know that fans of KeVita, and kombucha drinkers in general, tend to be culinary adventurers,” said Andrew Thomas, director of marketing at KeVita. “We are thrilled to delight these consumers with unique flavor pairings that reflect some of the most interesting elements of today’s food culture.”

 Other blends in the KeVita’s portfolio of two dozen flavors include Ginger, Pineapple Peach, Tart Cherry, Dragonfruit Lemongrass, Citrus and Raspberry Lemon.

One would be hard pressed to try all of the latest cold-pressed, fermented and otherwise imaginatively processed new-fangled drinks, but the only way to get to the bottom of them all is to drink up!

Personal trainer and nutrition specialist Daniel Carrilho samples the latest kombusha offerings from KeVita.

 

Stranger things, that are good to eat

Odd foods that can turn traditional staples upside down


While you are binge watching Netflix’s most esoteric series, Stranger Things, try snacking from the upside down. There is a whole world of strange – or at least unusual – foods, that you might not have ever heard of, that are good for you and just might turn everything right side up in your universe.

Go Bananas

If wheat chafes your hide, separate yourself from grain flour with Edward & Sons Organic Green Banana Flour.  This gluten-free alternative to wheat flour bakes up beautifully in cakes and pastries, and it can substitute for grain flour in gravy and other recipes. It can also boost a smoothie or shake for those who want to bulk up their nutritional profile. Available from www.edwardandsons.com

Almonds make a meal

By now almond butter is practically passé, as peanut allergy sufferers and anyone else just tired of peanut butter discovered it as an alternative to America’s most overused spread. Barney Bakery just upped the ante with Natural Almond Meal, a gluten-free, slightly sweet and nutty pantry staple that can coat your chicken tenders or give a crunch to your dessert crumble. Find local grocery stores that carry Barney products at www.barneybutter.com

Tea up

If traditional, boring old tea is not your cup of tea, try Primal Essence Super Teas. These flavorful tea sprays are made from whole-plant extracts and come in flavors such as Ginger Zing or Classic Chai. Squirted into hot or cold water, they transform your drink into a luscious healthy beverage bursting with herb flavors and spices. Available at www.primalessence.com

Jackfruit be nimble

If meat slows you down and chugs through your system, Native Forest Organic Young Jackfruit may help you be nimble again. This meat-free alternative to soy, plucked from the orchards of Sri Lanka, is a great gluten-free base option for sauces and seasonings and a hearty filler for vegan tacos, sloppy joes and other recipies that call for shredded meat. Available at www.edwardandsons.com

It’s the season

Don’t just sprinkle on any salt. Season your food with sea salt from the still pure waters of New Zealand, with New Zealand Pacific Sea Salt. Add a little more flavor with Mesquite BBQ variety or Chipotle BBQ, or try something with a little more texture, such as BioGro Certified Flaky Salt.  Available at www.shoppri.com

Who’s your honey

A spoonful of honey makes the medicine go down, especially if the medicine is the honey.  Manuka Honey, made by bees that collect nectar from the flowers of the New Zealand Manuka tree, is the only honey found worldwide that exhibits non-peroxide activity. This cool-pressed, 100 percent raw honey is a powerful digestive aid, assisting with allergies and immune defense, and it is a potent anti-bacterial agent when used topically for minor wounds and burns. Available at www.shoppri.com

Up your cup with a coconut

Okay, so coconut as a cooking oil was somewhat debunked as a miracle elixir, but it’s still fabulous for skin and hair care, and it also makes a wondrous sweetener.  Munkijo Organic Coconut Nectar is Naturally low-glycemic, gluten-free, vegan, Kosher and non-GMO, and an ideal alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. It’s a and a perfect complement to pancakes, waffles, cereal, teas, coffee and ice cream, and it can be used as a 1:1 substitute for liquid sweeteners in baking. Available at www.munkijo.com

Mystery meat you love to eat

Giving up animal products in your diet does not mean giving up tasty foods like steak and drumsticks. Vegetarian Plus redefines the vegan diet with delectable, low-sodium frozen entrees like meatless Kung Pao Chicken, Citrus Spareribs and Black Pepper Steak. With textures and flavors that are surprising authentic, this vegetarian food is not only healthy but better than good enough to eat.

Pizza pop-up: ‘Yachty’s Pizzeria’ in H’wood

Lil’ Yachty Delivers ‘Yachty’s Pizzeria’ to Delicious Pizza in LA

pizza2

Following the launch of Yachty’s Pizzeria in NYC last month, Lil’ Yachty and
Bravado announce his second pop-up pizzeria at Delicious Pizza in Hollywood this Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17. The Atlanta-born artist will offer Angelenos a unique opportunity to enjoy an iconic west coast slice while shopping limited-edition exclusive merchandise inspired by Yachty’s Pizzeria.  The pop-up will offer five styles available for purchase, including short sleeve tees for $30, long sleeve tee for $40, hoodie for $60, satin bomber jacket for $100 and hats for $30. All customers will receive their pizza in a limited-time only Yachty’s Pizzeria pizza box.
Saturday, September 16 – Sunday, September 17
12pm-7pm
Delicious Pizza
Delicious Pizza established in 2015, is a family business started by father and son duo Fred Sutherland (Fred 62) and Travis Sutherland and brothers Michael and Rick Ross, owners of the iconic L.A. hip-hop record label Delicious Vinyl, the name behind superstar hip hop acts The Pharcyde  (Passin Me By), Tone Loc (“Wild Thing” “Funky Cold Medina”) & Young MC (“Bust a Move”) and many more. Delicious Pizza’s high-quality pies and golden-era hip-hop memorabilia and music have made it a destination for local residents and music fans alike. Delicious Pizza uses an all-organic grain mix fermented with a home-grown natural yeast starter for its dough and offers unconventional toppings (like soppressata, ricotta and fontina cheeses, and house-made sausage) for its hip-hop-themed pies (think: Cheeba Cheeba and The Slaughtahouse). Memorabilia from Delicious Vinyl and the golden era of hip-hop lines the walls and the music is a mix of old school jams and classics.

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