THINGS I ATE: New Mexican Cuisine at Jeffrey Saad’s La Ventura

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For years and years, I have been an avid fan of Food Network Star — going all the way back to its genial, awkward first season which saw two party planner guys take home the inaugural crown. Since then, we’ve witnessed many dubious winners claim the big prize (ahem, Big Daddy’s House) while more deserving runners-up go home empty-handed. Well, sort of empty handed. Some near-misses have found success with Food Network despite premature ejection from their star path. Kelsey Nixon and Adam Gertler have had post-Food Network Star runs, and so has Jeffrey Saad, whose season five loss was parlayed into hosting gigs for Spice Smuggler and later United Tastes of America.

Saad, it should be noted, also helms his very own restaurant, La Ventura, here in Los Angeles, and last week, I was invited to a media-comped dinner at the establishment. FINALLY — I would be able to sample the cooking of a Food Network star. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of.

(And yes, I’m fully aware that I could just traipse over to any of Guy Fieri’s dining establishments, but I do like to maintain a certain level of dignity.) …… (Full disclosure, I’m typing this unshowered in my underwear.)

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THINGS I ATE: Brunch Foods at Sonny’s Hideaway

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Brunch. It’s more than just a portmanteau. It’s a way of life. And in Los Angeles, I’m always on the lookout for new brunch options. There simply are not enough in this town, and any time a decent place pops up, it’s only a matter of time before it’s saddled with a 45 minute wait.

Nevertheless, when I was invited to a media-comped brunch at Sonny’s Hideaway this past week, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to go. Perhaps I’d have a new destination to add to my ever expanding brunch list.

Did the restaurant deliver the goods? Pics and commentary after the jump…

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The Only Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Need

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This past weekend, my friend Sly celebrated a birthday, and in her honor, I baked Ina Garten’s impeccable Carrot and Pineapple Cake. It was actually the second time in three weeks that I’ve made the recipe for a birthday, which is significant only because the first time around, I couldn’t help but feel like Ina’s cream cheese frosting was a little… off.

Avid readers of this blog know that I think Ina Garten is basically flawless, but here’s the hardcore truth: the Barefoot Contessa cream cheese frosting veers way too closely into buttercream territory. In fact, it’s barely tangy at all. There, I SAID IT.

Nevertheless, as I prepared to bake Sly’s very own carrot cake, I wanted to learn from Ina’s missteps. I was determined to create a batch of cream cheese frosting that was tangy and amazing and decadent enough to be worthy of Sly.

I’m happy to report that I not only achieved this, but I actually knocked it out of the park. This was the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made, and Sly herself even proclaimed it was the best she’d tasted. There’s no great science to it, but with a variety of cream cheese frosting recipes online, I think it’s important that someone drive a flag into the ground and declare that the Internet search is over: THIS is the only cream cheese frosting recipe you’ll ever need.

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THINGS I ATE: Steak Frites at L’Assiette

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A few weeks ago, Los Angeles endured a brutal heat wave with temperatures reaching 100 degrees or more. It was the sort of weather that left me listless and sweating; although, to be fair, most temperatures leave me listless and sweating. When the heat goes up, most people gravitate towards light fare — salads, cold soups, shellfish — but as luck would have it, I had a media-comped meal scheduled at L’Assiette Steak Frites, a new restaurant on Melrose Avenue that serves one thing and one thing only: steak frites. Hence, the name. I can’t say a heavy meal of meat and potatoes was exactly what I was in the mood for during that steamy period of Los Angeles weather, but I am a proud soldier of the blogosphere. I will brave the difficulties of this job for you, the dear reader, even if it means I must eat cold weather food IN WARM WEATHER.

You’re welcome, people. Please, no applause. Stay in your seats. An ovation is not necessary! Continue reading

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THINGS I ATE: Soft Pizza At Settebello

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Once again, I’m on a health kick: low carb, high protein, reduced fat. So naturally I wound up at a pizza place. To be fair, I was invited for a media-comped lunch at Settebello, the regional pizza chain that boasts pies that are VPN certified. What’s VPN, you ask? Well, it has nothing to do with Virtual Private Networks. VPN, when it comes to pizza, stands for Vera Pizza Napoletana — which basically means that the ingredients, the ovens, and the processes are up to Naples’ approval. It’s like being kosher for pizza.

Well, who am I to deny pizza, let alone CERTIFIED pizza? So off I trekked to Settebello on Cinco De Mayo (I enjoy playing against type on international holidays). Pictures of the pizza party after the jump…

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WEDNESDAY NIGHT SUPPER CLUB: Irish Potluck Edition

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Exciting news: not only is today the birthday of Kathy Ireland, but it’s also the launch date of a new feature on this blog: Wednesday Night Supper Club. One part Adventures in Domesticity and one part Things I Ate, the Wednesday Night Supper Club will detail the latest meals of my Wednesday night dining crew, also known as — you guessed it — the Wednesday Night Supper Club.

A little bit of backstory: Continue reading

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THINGS I ATE: Pizza, Cannoli, and Other Decadent Things at DeSano Pizza Bakery

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With the Super Bowl marking the end of football season two weeks ago, I made a pledge to eat healthy for a month and forgo all those carby, fatty meals that had littered my January and February. Dare I say it — I even declared that I would try paleo. Yes, paleo: that utterly annoying eat-like-a-caveman diet that everyone seems to do and love/hate. This was going to be the newer, Stone Age-ier Ben, and with any luck, I might even develop the early tracings of an ab or two.

Naturally, none of this happened.

That’s probably a good thing because otherwise I would have had to have declined the invitation for a media-comped lunch at the newly opened DeSano Pizza Bakery in East Hollywood. With pizza, calzones, gelato, and cannoli on the menu, I can assure you that this burgeoning eatery is not the destination for dieters hoping to embrace their inner Australopithecus. (And whoa, “Australopithecus” wasn’t flagged by spell check. But cannoli was. I don’t understand this world).

After the jump, check out pics of lunch at DeSano Pizza Bakery.

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THINGS I ATE: A Whole Bunch of Good Stuff

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Over the past several months, I’ve been snapping pictures of food with the intention of writing about it on this blog. Now it’s December 31st, and I have a small backlog of meals to share. Rather than generate a post for each one, I’m just going to dump the photos here.

Long story short: all this food was good, and if you find yourself in LA, be sure to try these restaurants out. Continue reading

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Food & Wine Edition

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I’ve become a bit of a cookbook hoarder over the past few months, which is not always a great thing as I feel perpetually guilty for not actually cooking from a majority of my new purchases. Making matters worse is that I now have a subscription to Food & Wine magazine, which adds another heap of recipes to my wish list every month. Clearly this is a dire situation. Perhaps the most dire situation known to man.

Anyway, not too long ago I decided to actually put my Food & Wine to the test and try out two recipes: Chicken Salad with Tahini-Yogurt Dressing and White Anchovy and Grilled Radicchio Bread Salad. Pictures after the jump:

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“Food Lovers’ Guide to Los Angeles” Is The Best

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I don’t often review things for Amazon, but I felt compelled to write up something about my friend Cathy Chaplin‘s new book, Food Lovers’ Guide To Los Angeles because I loved it so much (and I’m not just saying that because Cathy is a friend). Anyway, I figured rather than write a whole new entry here on the blog, I might as well just share my review.

After the jump, check out my thoughts on Cathy’s book. Spoiler alert: I approve.

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