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LA (THIRD STREET): THE BEST SUSHI LUNCH

By Nora Zelevansky / February 27th, 2009

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(Chicken Teriyaki and Tempura "Lunch Box" At Izakaya By Katsuya–Forgot My Camera Again, So Thank You, Blackberry)

So, in these rough times, we have to make certain concessions, cutting out pricier indulgences like our forty-fifth pair of amazing boots, overpriced potato salad with wilted arugula, avocado and lemon vinaigrette (Oh, how I love you, Joan's On Third), the gym membership we use maybe once a month on a guilty Sunday and, worst of all, our daily dose of sushi.

Well, good news: good sushi is no longer astronomical.  Okay, it sort of still is, but we really weren't giving it up anyway, right??  At Izakaya By Katsuya on Third Street (one of LA's BEST sushi spots), turns out they have these unbelievable lunch deals: for between $8.50 and $14 you can have a huge sushi or hot Japanese lunch.  I mean, are you kidding?????  Why didn't I know about this sooner???

Today I checked it out with my friend Candice of iStyleThis fame.  She got the Miso Cod & Tempura "Lunch Box" and I got the same, but with Chicken Teriyaki.  If only lunch boxes were always this good. Instead, growing up, I had brown paper bags filled with health food store peanut butter and honey sandwiches on wheat bread and an apple.  No, thank you, I'll take the sushi instead.

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(See, Candina happily eating that salad up?)

First of all, the salad dressing is insanely tangy and gingery and delish.  It costs a couple dollars extra to order your California roll with no mayonnaise (if you go the Cali route over Spicy Tuna), but if you're a mayo-phobe like moi, it's worth it.  We happened to get cooked food, but you can also get all sushi or sashimi.  Plus, Katsuya is not as loud and crazy crowded during the day, which is nicer anyway.

All I'm saying is, in these rough times, I'll take any ray of hope I can get.  And I ain't giving up my sushi anytime soon.

xo – N.

LA (FAIRFAX): CRUMPLED TWENTY

By Nora Zelevansky / February 26th, 2009

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The Best Link Today:

Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is Golden State.

Actually, the new friend is Golden State, as  B + S reports that the resto will finally be opening it's Fairfax doors on March 12th.  The website is up and she even snagged an early menu draft (though it seems to be down off G.S.'s site right now–oopsy–too early?).

The spot will specialize in (what else?) Cali's best offerings, especially in the sausage department from spicy lamb to English banger.  I just think ordering "English banger" sounds fun and dirty.  Cabbage and Jalapeno Slaw sounds pretty tasty.  And I believe there will be a local wine and beer component too.

Golden State is another addition to the deeply traif restaurants that keep popping up on largely hassidic Fairfax and in the Beverly vicinity.  First there was Milk and then Animal (never together OF COURSE) and now this. (If you're curious, you can read my LA Confidential article on Animal).

Anyway, not sure how the hassidic peeps feel, but it sounds pretty damn Golden to me!

xo – N.

NYC (AND BEYOND): BEST DAY TO MOURN TOP CHEF

By Nora Zelevansky / February 26th, 2009

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(The Mourning Dress I Should Be Wearing Because Hosea Won Top Chef–HOSEA!!!)

DUDE.  I don't even know what to say.  This is a dark day on Bravo.  How the hell did they allow this to happen? How the hell did Hosea win Top Chef?

First of all, I think we're all bummed that Casey (who was known as the *jinx* on her season, not because she's actually bad luck, but because she sucks at cooking) totally destroyed Carla's chances.

Second of all, I think we all know that Stefan, while painted as the villain this season, is clearly an actual human being, as he rushed over to Carla's side when she started crying.

Third of all, I think we all know that Stefan not only made the best dish of the night (squab), but was the strongest chef (alongside underdog Carla) all season.

On the other hand, here's what we know about Hosea:

First, he's a douche.

Second, he's a douche.

Third, he's a douche.

Fourth, he's a douche.

Fifth, we know that he actually liked the most obviously desperate and needy woman in Top Chef history (and the other incredibly annoying person this season).

Sixth, his girlfriend dumped him after the show.  Mazel.

Seventh, we don't really know anything about him because his culinary style is as bulbous and beige as his face.

Eighth, when Carla was crying about letting Casey sway her menu and failing miserably as a result, he bragged that he, "just cooked my food tonight."  Which is what exactly???  Douche soup????

Ninth, after he won, he was still pathetically talking about beating Stefan.  I mean, get a grip, lamo!

Tenth, he's a douche.

If only Tom hadn't been on the rag all season without Gail to check him.  If only Gail had come back earlier and witnessed the loser that is Hosea.  If only Carla hadn't fallen under Casey's blue cheese souffle influence.  If only Stefan had put some spice in his ice cream and made it "chocolate chili" instead of just "chocolate mousse."  If only Richard Blais was eligible to win, since he's probably nine hundred times better at cooking than any of them.  If only Marcel had rapped.

But no.  And, so, we have nothing left to do, but mourn and hope that Hosea gets trashed by the other contestants on the Reunion Show.  Which he probably won't.  WHATEVER.

At least Richard Blais blogs on the website about how he would have helped any of them win.  And I think it's true.

In protest, I'm not even linking to the stupid Top Chef site.  GRRRRRR.

xo – N.

P.S.  Do you guys agree?  Let me know via the "comments" link just below!

P.P.S. Check out Top Chef Season 5 Misfires on TWoP.

P.P.P.S.  My sister and Andrew think Gail's boobs look bigger.  Do we think she's preggers?  That would be quick, no?

LA (BEVERLY BLVD): CRUMPLED TWENTY

By Nora Zelevansky / February 25th, 2009

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The Best Link Today:

I sorta think the above flyer says it all, but just to S-P-E-L-L it out (in honor of my friend Roseanne, who LOVES to spell things out loud): my hood's (and perhaps the city's) best new-ish accessories shop TenOverSix is having a HUGE sale this weekend.

Now, I'm too po' and freelance to buy anything sadly, but those of you with actual jobs would be FOOLS not to take advantage.  Just look at the lines listed above!

Plus, the brick courtyard is super cute and if the weather is anything like today, it might just be nice to peruse.  Peruse away . . . and don't cry for me, Argentina.

xo – N.

P.S. Turns out that Kendo–that great women's limited edition sneaker store–is having a closing sale too.  Starting Thursday, sneakers are less than $40 each.  Sad.  But a great bargain, if you need sneaks.

Q & A: Karaoke Question, Best Place To Belt It Out?

By Nora Zelevansky / February 25th, 2009

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(M. & P.S. Bring Down The House Echo Park-Style)

Question:  (posed by Connor via "Ask Lifestyle Questions"–02/18)
Hey Nora, what's the best place to go for group Karaoke?  Where you can rent a room for a large group?  Or maybe a bar with karaoke?
I love your blog!  Hugs, Connor

Answer:  First of all, I'm afraid you're only permitted to read this answer if you agree never to karaoke Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back.  Hearing people drunkenly karaoke that song is like watching people dance to I Will Survive at weddings.  IT MUST STOP.  TOO MUCH.

Now that I've said my piece: I feel I'd be remiss in answering this question without first addressing the above photo.  My friend M. is the Karaoke Queen.  And, as anyone who has had ample karaoke experience knows, her royal highness fits the "unassuming" profile.  It's always the quiet, demure ones, no?

Anyway, M. not only transforms from adorably awkward, proper lady to maniac crooner at the first sign of an old school Britney or Destiny's Child ballad, but she also works serious dance moves.  It's truly a sight to behold.

Lucky for us, I have pictures:

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ANYWAY, here are some of my favorite places in LA, where I've watched M. go nutty:

EAGLE ROCK (and M. rocks too):

Okay, I know that All Star Lanes is TECHNICALLY a bowling alley and a trek, but bear with me.  First of all, they have bowling AND karaoke AND a bar on Saturday nights (double check cause the schedule changes).  Second of all, you're like blocks from Casa Bianca, so–for my 29th birthday for example–I had a bowling party, followed by drunken karaoke, followed by eating our weight in crazy inexpensive yummy Italian food at Casa Bianca (they take reservations for parties over six, I believe).

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(Bowling at the 29th in Andrew's Glasses and Then At Casa Bianca With My Prizes NOT For Birthday, But For My Impeccable Bowling and Karaoke Skills–YUP)

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(Yum, Casa Bianca that night too . . . )

HOLLYWOOD (and so would M.):

AMAGI is a bar situation in Hollywood.  I'm not sure about private rooms, but their karaoke area in intimate enough not to feel intimidating, so . . .

BRASS MONKEY is an old standard for locals; they've actually been open since 1971.  This is a great option if you want drinks AND snacks, as they're actually a cafe too.  Every night of the week!

LITTLE TOKYO (and big M.):

OIWAKE in Japanese Village Plaza is always festive and you can eat sushi and drink sake while you sing.  I just really like the Little Tokyo karaoke scene cause I get it feels authentic.  Apparently, City Cat Karaoke has private rooms, but I know a bunch of the Little Tokyo spots do.

Metromix offers some other options and City Search did a "Best Of" LA Karaoke for 2008, which lists some Sawtelle and Korea Town options. 

I know K-Town has some great spots, but I haven't experienced anything except Zip for cocktails.  Same with Sawtelle.  So, if anyone can recommend some good Korea Town and west side spots, then please "comment" below and let us know!

Also, it's hardly a private room scenario, but bars like Barney's Beanery and Guys (sorta underground star-studded) totally do weekly karaoke nights.

Kinda makes you want to sing.  And dance.  Right, M.?

xo – N.

LA (LA BREA): CRUMPLED TWENTY

By Nora Zelevansky / February 24th, 2009

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(Umami Burger . . . Yum.  Maybe?)

The Best Link Today:

More happenings on La Brea: according to The LA Times' Daily Dish, a Bottle Rock co-founder has launched Umami Burger (a spot dedicated to 'the Japanese fifth taste' alongside sweet, salty, sour and spicy).  Not sure if that's a yummy prospect or not.  The idea seems a bit one note, but I still totally want to check it out.

Isn't it weird how an abstract concept can become trendy?  Suddenly, everyone has umami fever.  Maybe I should make t-shirts that say, "Whose U-mami?" (That was bad–sorry).  I'm just waiting for the "Umami Elimination Challenge" on Top Chef.  (If all the contestants were still on the show, Jamie would make umami scallops, Fabio would make umami pasta, Jeff would make umami 800 ways and Leah would leave scales on umami fish).

That said, I'm a big fan of the burger and sausage movement happening in and around LA right now: Umami Burger, 8 Oz. Burger Bar (where I LOVE the chorizo stuffed fried olives), always Father's Office, Golden State (still waiting), Wurstküche and more.

Pretty, pretty good.  (Oh, how I miss my Curb).

xo – N. 

LA (LA BREA): THE BEST COOKIE DOUGH

By Nora Zelevansky / February 24th, 2009

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(The Cookie Dough Fridge at La Brea Bakery)

In 1988, when chef Nancy Silverton learned the craft of artisan bread-making in anticipation of opening LA's Campanile (still a beloved standard, especially on Thursdays' Grilled Cheese Nights) and the adjoining La Brea Bakery, she probably had no idea that her bread would become a local staple.  (She also probably didn't predict that she'd eventually open Mozza,a pizza spot/osteria and one of LA's most competitive reservations–with the best brussel sprouts BTW).  At this point, La Brea Bakery loaves can even be found at high-end supermarkets.

La Brea Bakery remains a destination, though, for delicious breads, sandwiches, pastries and the like. My father, for one, is a total devotee and every time we stop in he tries to cajole me into ordering a ginger cookie or a *canele, so that he can guiltlessly eat dessert too.  I'm more of a sucker for the pretzel rolls (as a salt addict and all), but this time around I noticed a fridge filled with cookie dough. Apparently, like some of the loaves of bread, these "Bake Home" cookies are about 80% cooked and then wrapped up, so you can take them home, pop them in the oven and have perfect La Brea Bakery quality cookies ten minutes later.

Now that's a baking endeavor that even Andrew and I can competently complete.  Hopefully.

xo – N.

*If you haven't ever had a canele, they're sweet eggy French pastries.  I guess, since they're not too sweet and have a great chewy consistency, they're sort of like a more dense dessert version of a popover.  And for all you popover fans out there, who haven't found a good one in LA, check out the restaurant in the basement of Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.  Popover central.

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SF (AND BEYOND): THE BEST PICKLED STRING BEANS

By Nora Zelevansky / February 23rd, 2009

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(Sort of Self-Explanatory, No?)

I spent this weekend on a cruise for work (don't ask–or do ask–either way I'll explain at a later date, but let's just say it involved lots of drunk travel agents dancing to a striking rendition of Red Red Wine).
 
After arriving back on dry land (hallelujah!), we rushed home to see Hugh Jackman prance around (really? he's straight?), Angie & Brad grin at Jen and Micky Rourke look, well, disturbing and like Mickey Rourke. 

ANYWAY, tomorrow I'm on deadline, so I figured that for your sake and mine (and because I've used up all my time), I'd make today's post short and sweet.  DUDE.  I've now spent so much time rambling about keeping this short that I've gone on forever.

SO, the point: about a year ago my ingenious sister signed me up for "Pickle Of The Month Club." I'm a pickle fanatic (clearly in keeping with my salt addiction) and I was thrilled to say the least.

Anyway, Month Club Store became sort of a thang in my family and so, as one gift for my last birthday, my family got me potato chip, pickled vegetable and beef jerky of the month.  So far the pickled vegetable has been SO good, but this month's (which arrived this weekend) is particularly tasty: Penna's Spicy Pickled Beans grown on family land and created in Sacramento Valley, California by a couple who met in third grade.

The string beans are totally delicious and tangy as a snack and would probably be fab in a bloody mary situation too.

So, I'd like to thank my sister, for finding Month Club in the first place and my parents for buying this particular subscription for me.  And, also, I'd like to thank Maurice and Cindy Penna without whom these treats might never have been possible.  Oh, and of course the Academy.

You've always got to thank the Academy.

xo – N.

LA (AND BEYOND): CRUMPLED TWENTY

By Nora Zelevansky / February 20th, 2009

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The Best Link Today:

Food for thought: this week new food site, Tasting Table, officially launched.  The Los Angeles edition, helmed by beloved Eater L.A. vet Lesley Balla, is already all over my Google Reader.  Most recently, Lesley blogged all over chef Walter Manzke at Downtown Art District's Frenchie spot Church & State.  I haven't been, but according to Miss Balla the frisee au lardon salad is the best in town.  And that's enough for moi.

xo – N.

LA (HOLLYWOOD): THE BEST BRUSCHETTA/BEER FLIGHT

By Nora Zelevansky / February 20th, 2009

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(A Waiter Recommended Beer Flight at Delancey)

So, having linked to a story about their wine tasting room's opening and being a big fan of The Bowery (owned by the same peeps and just up the street), I went to try Delancey out for myself on Thursday evening with a few lovely friends. You know who you are, M., B. &  P.

I want to start out by acknowledge something that, I think, as a born and bred New Yorker who lives in LA, I'm in a semi-unique position to say: sometimes LA has a major inferiority complex when it comes to NYC.  And, as much as I love my hometown and appreciate a good nod to the Big Apple, I think the obsession occasionally borders on sad.  So, maybe there is a fantastic reason why everything at Delancey is named for L.E.S. (The Lower East Side), but it feels a little . . . like it's trying to hard.  I mean, they already own Bowery, so the NYC worshipping seems plentiful enough. (P. grew up with me on the Upper West and B. was a longtime New Yorker and they agreed–so there).

Okay, that said I really liked Delancey's vibe.  I dig the intimacy of the space, the exposed brick walls, the shiny, reflective exposed brick facade, wine-colored booths and the beers choices scrawled casually across an over-sized mirror. Even more than Bowery with its much slicker black and white tiled motif, Delancey does feel like a neighborhood spot (and for a moment I wish I lived deeper into Hollywood).

And food-wise things were good.  First of all, the menu, like Bowery's, is really reasonably priced.  The beer menu (and the flights they offer, which you can customize or, like M. did, you can have created specially for you based on preference) is substantial and I had a glass of sparkling red, which I just LOVE all the time, though I don't think it was a Lambrusco. (Lambrusco is an Italian sparkling wine that's sort of considered low class, but I'm just a sucker for it, as it feels festive to drink like a winter-appropriate summer cocktail).
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(Ode To Delicious Bruschetta By The Pocket Lint)

Whose bruschetta this is, I think I know, his house is in the village though . . . Sorry.

The above White Bean Crostini Bruschetta with Olive Tapenade (one of my favorite condiments/foods in ever invented), Oil Cured Tuna and Radish was ultimately my favorite part of the meal, as it was amazingly flavorful.  I sort of envisioned coming back another day with friends and just ordering a bunch of bruschettas and some wine because they have like six options, including a Prosciutto, Goat Cheese & Dates situation–sign me up.  I don't know about you people, but live by a "more options to nibble the better" picking rule.

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(Essex Pizza and Rainbow-Colored Baby Artichokes)

Also, for my fellow lactards: the Essex pizza with Salumi, Olives and Cannelini Beans also has Sheep's Milk Ricotta in the mix and was very tasty (though the crust has a specific olive oil doused sort of crunchy consistency that some of us liked and some of us disliked).  I'd probably still take Terroni or Mozza's crust over this.  Maybe Pizzeria Ortica too.  But none of them offer me a Sheep Cheese version. Anyway, I liked it enough so that I almost murdered Andrew when he gobbled my leftovers without asking yesterday.  Grrrrrr.  Tip: don't get between this girl and her food cause she might bite.

I'd also like to give a shout out to all the Crispy Baby Artichoke hoes with Chili, Sweet & Sour Onions, Mint, Pine Nuts and Orange (I'm crazy), though I think they might have been elevated even further with a bit more acid and/or heat (do I sound Top Chef-esque?).  Actually, they were so beautifully colored that I'd order them just for a cheerful addition.  And, according to B., the Gnocchi with Wild Boar, Sage and Olives, was a yummy choice too.

All and all, though there wasn't a pickle monger or yenta in sight, I'd definitely cross town for Delancey again.  (Get it?  Crossing Delancey?  Sorry–I tried to stop myself from making the reference, but I just couldn't).

xo – N.