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LA (THAI TOWN): THE BEST EDIBLE OPENING ACT

By Nora Zelevansky / July 14th, 2010

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It's not exactly news that I'm a fan of pickled vegetables.  I'm also a salt addict.  Duh.  But you may not know that I'm a big fan of meals where you can sample many different flavors.

Maybe that's why I love the above plate of pickled vegetables, feta cheese and olives from Carousel in Hollywood, which comes out at the beginning of every meal.  Don't be fooled by the Thai Town address.  This spot is Middle Eastern all the way with Moussaka that tastes like awesome eggplant parmesan and Lula Kabobs that are as flavorful as any I've had.

The nicer version of this restaurant is supposedly in Glendale, but I've only ever been to slightly divey Hollywood annex.  And I feel like too much polish might actually ruin the experience for me.

Maybe I'm afraid of change.  It's true, I'm scared.  And only feta cheese will save me.

xo – N.

CHI TOWN (DOWNTOWN): THE BEST WINE, CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE WITH THE CHICAS

By Nora Zelevansky / June 7th, 2010

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Okay, okay, this is my last Chicago post for a while.  These stories are starting to sound almost nostalgic.  That's how long ago this trip actually happened.  Back in ye olden days before oil spills and sink holes and before that Natalee Holloway sociopath struck again and … wow, three weeks ago really was the good old days.

Anyway, at least I'm not writing about my trip to Abu Dahbi with my three best friends (BTW–I hear Doha is actually the new spot–just saying).  How sick are you of hearing about SATC2?  Oh.  Sad.  I just realized that if I was writing about Abu Dhabi as Carrie Bradshaw, I'd be wearing Lanvin.  I wish I was wearing Lanvin.

But then again I'd probably be wearing it with like a weird Dior hat right now.  I mean, what is it with Carrie Bradshaw and weird hats?  If she was a friendly neighborhood homeless person, she'd totally be the one rocking garbage pail lids and paper bags as hats.  I mean, you know, if she wasn't fictional.  Ahem.

I'm sorry–did I digress?

What's that you say?  You want to hear about the above cheese?

Well, my lovable friends and I (Charlotte, Samantha–just kidding!) stayed in a suite at the InterContinental in Chi-Town, which is great because they just renovated a bunch of the rooms.  The beds were like heaven.  The bathrooms were lovely.  All good all around!

But, perhaps most memorable, was ENO, the wine, chocolate and cheese restaurant in the hotel.  (I know there are ENO siblings in the O.C. and at Hotel Del Coronado–only one of my favorite places ever.)  But I had never been.

First of all, R. had some chocolate-covered salted caramels that she FREAKED over.

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There was chocolate-dipped bacon too.

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Late afternoon, following a day of shopping and such, M., R., T. & I sat at the sort of bar height tables and ordered the above cheese plate, a side of olives (three types) and charcuterie.  The food was delicious–exactly what we wanted it to be!

The meats were so flavorful and, of course, we got a whole goat cheese situation for little old lactard me.  The truth is that–unless it's the summer, when nothing but guacamole, chips and a margarita with salt will do–there is no better late afternoon snack than charcuterie, cheese, chocolate and wine.

In fact, I think that might also be the four food groups.

Am I missing one?  Oh, right: french fries.

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.