Westside Tavern – West Los Angeles

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

When Martin and I go out, more often than not, food is the main event. We don’t plan to go anywhere afterward; we simply enjoy our dinner and each other’s company. If we have the luxury and opportunity, a tasting menu consisting of a dozen courses would be our idea of date night. But sometimes, you’re in the mood for the oldie but goodie – dinner and a movie. That’s where Westside Tavern comes in.

Foreground: Sazerac Old Overholt Rye Whiskey | Simple Syrup | Bitters | Absinthe Mist (Background: Iced Green Tea)

Foreground: Sazerac Old Overholt Rye Whiskey | Simple Syrup | Bitters | Absinthe Mist (Background: Iced Green Tea)

Situated in the heart of the Westside Pavilion, a few short miles down Westwood Boulevard from our alma mater, Westside Tavern is built to accommodate the patrons of the adjoining Landmark Theater. The service is quick, friendly, and efficient, and the food comes out with plenty of time to spare even if you’re trying to squeeze in a three-course meal before a show (guilty as charged). With my recent career trajectory, and given the personal recommendations I had received, we decided to see Chef (GREAT movie, by the way). To whet our appetites for the food-themed movie, we decided to indulge.

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse - Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse – Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse – Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

It’s no secret on this blog that we love all things charcuterie, so when a place offers chicken liver mousse, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be ordering it. The adorable glass jar of paté was topped with a wine-red gelée (I couldn’t identify the flavor as it was vaguely sweet but overpowered by the liver). I really enjoyed the crisp and tart chutney; when I had read the description on the menu, I expected a more jam-like cooked chutney but was pleasantly surprised by this fresh pickled salad of sorts. The grilled sourdough was delicious and unique “paté carrier” in lieu of regular old toast. I am incredibly biased with regard to the paté itself, however, and while it was good, it just did not live up to the hype of the many positive reviews I had read (see Yelp and other forums). The primary thing for me was the color; I could not get past the gray hue of oxidized livers.

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

When we went to New England last spring, I learned that there were two competing camps of lobster rolls: Connecticut-style (tossed in hot, drawn butter) and Maine-style (served cold in a mayo-based salad). I am in food-love with the hot, buttery CT-style and jumped at the chance to have one here, despite the $19 price tag. A crispy, toasted, split-top brioche roll packed to the brim with succulent knuckle and claw meat… I was in cholesterol heaven! They say money can’t buy happiness, but Westside Tavern managed to name a price. $19. All things considered, not a bad deal for buttery bliss.

(Martin had the Wagyu Beef French Dip – Smoked Onion Vinaigrette | Horseradish Cream | Thyme Jus | French Roll. He dug in too quickly for me to snap a photo but seemed quite happy with his hot, meaty sandwich swimming in hearty jus.)

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake - Mascarpone Cream

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake – Mascarpone Cream

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake – Mascarpone Cream

There’s ALWAYS room for dessert, and when at a pub with “tavern” in the name, you just can’t pass up the sticky toffee pudding! It has been said by others and I will say it again here: the sticky toffee cake at Westside Tavern is HUGE. Like “bring all of your friends and share” huge. The cake was warm and spongy, the toffee sauce sweet and syrupy, and the quenelle of mascarpone cream was the perfect light and airy touch. We regretted not being able to finish it all then and there.

So as I mentioned earlier, our server was great at timing our courses so that we could eat without feeling rushed but still get our meal served in time to run upstairs and catch the movie. We allotted an hour and a half before our scheduled movie time and it worked out perfectly (the less ambitious could probably plan for an hour flat). Overall, it was certainly the best dinner-and-a-movie experience that I can recall!

And speaking of movies, if you haven’t seen Jon Favreau’s Chef yet, I highly recommend checking it out. The kitchen humor especially is hilarious and hilariously accurate, while still being an enjoyable and relatable movie to viewers in and out of the industry alike. And for those who have seen it, I leave you with two words: hush puppies.

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Check out Westside Tavern: westsidetavernla.com

10850 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

See their Yelp reviews here!

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LA WineFest 2013 – Hollywood, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

We were super excited to find out that we had won Gourmet Pigs‘ giveaway of a pair of tickets to this past weekend’s LA WineFest at the historic Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. We love food events and this was an awesome opportunity; we otherwise would have had to dole out $60+ a head for admission, although with the wine and beer freely flowing and part of the proceeds going to benefit a good cause, we could see how it could still be very worth it.

Including a souvenir wine glass!

Including a souvenir wine glass!

With an impressive exhibitors list of over 500 local and international wineries, breweries, spirit-makers, and food vendors, this 8th annual event drew visitors from all over LA to partake in the festivities while also supporting the 2013 official charity Food Forward. Now that’s a pretty good way to spend a weekend in LA, if you ask me!

There were just too many vendors to name, and because of the crowds, we were not able to visit every single table. But we did sample a lot of them and here are just a few of our favorites.

Fancifull Artisanal Cheeses and Salami

Fancifull Artisanal Cheeses and Salami

When you think of wine pairings, the first thing that probably comes to mind is cheese. We spotted a huge crowd that had gathered round and decided to check out Fancifull – a gourmet foods and gift baskets vendor.

Wally and Terry August of Fancifull

Wally and Terry August of Fancifull

Wally takes great pride in his cheeses, all made with farmstead dairy. Sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and plenty of cow’s milk cheeses… My favorites were a tossup between the Beecher’s Flagship (cheddar-like cow’s milk cheese from Seattle) and the Jeff’s Select Gouda from Caves of Faribault, which had a gorgeous bright orange hue.

Stella Artois Biergarten

Stella Artois Biergarten

Stella Artois was very obviously one of the larger sponsors of LA WineFest, and the lines for the biergarten dominated a majority of the main event floor. Good thing the friendly staff meandered through the lines and poured tasters of Cidre, an apple cider newest on their product line. With so little time and so much to see, we left our place in line and continued wandering.

Vibrant Rioja

Vibrant Rioja

From several feet away, Martin’s keen eye spotted a very familiar bottle – a Rioja from Vibrant Rioja that we have often seen on the shelves at Trader Joes. A mid-tier, very smooth Spanish wine, Martin has aged the 2003 and 2004 vintage until recently, a good 8 or 9 years, before drinking. This 2006 vintage was also deliciously smooth and we may be picking up a few bottles to add to our library.

Garlic Expressions Salad Dressing

Garlic Expressions Salad Dressing

A delicious vinaigrette that features pickled whole garlic cloves as the prize at the bottom of every bottle, Garlic Expressions was a fun and flavorful vendor. As the presenter noted, the dressing could be used on salads, as a marinade, or even for dipping with bread.

San Antonio Winery / Maddelena

San Antonio Winery / Maddelena

Of course, the local San Antonio Winery had come out to showcase their Maddelena label. Martin has yet to visit their tasting room, but I have been tagging along with my parents since I was a kid. As the winery was (and still very much is) as family business, I remember Santos pouring me glasses of their blood orange sparkling soda while my parents tasted the “adult stuff.” Ahh, memories. I sampled the riesling and was very pleased with it; sweet but not cloyingly so. I’ll have to ask my dad to grab a bottle for me next time.

A bit of bubbly - Champagne Devaux

A bit of bubbly – Champagne Devaux

Among the wine and beer were also vendors of bubbly – this one is actually from France. Luckily we happened to stop by right as he was opening a new bottle. He told us a story of this gentleman who opened a bottle of champagne simply by rubbing the bottle’s neck to create vibrations and then with only a champagne flute, was able to pop the cork right off! The brut was a bit dry for my taste; I overheard other patrons asking about his rosé, which was apparently very popular and he had run out of it.

More bubbly - J. Hamilton Wines

More bubbly – J. Hamilton Wines

A very local winery just out of Westlake Village, J. Hamilton Wines offers a few limited varietals, custom blends, and a handful of sparkling wines including a private cuvée that I had to try. A crisp, refreshing brut.

Gourmet Balsamic Blends

Gourmet Balsamic Blends

We love olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting. We briefly frequented the Gourmet Balsamic Blends booth where I tried the “margarita” – a few drops of pomegranate balsamic vinegar complemented by lime-infused olive oil. Yum!

Lobsta Truck - check out their adorable tip jars!

Lobsta Truck – check out their adorable tip jars!

Now we really needed to get some real food into our stomachs, so we continued to seek out Lobsta Truck, possibly one of our favorite food trucks in LA. The line was long but we joined the queue, knowing the wait would be worth it. To pass the time, we admired their super cute tip jars — “Help us get to Vegas!” and “Help us get home from Vegas!”

Lobsta Truck Menu

Lobsta Truck Menu

This is only part of their menu but it covers the most important things you need to know — 1) they offer lobster rolls Connecticut-style (with drawn butter) and 2) they have lobster bisque to which you can add extra meat!

Lobsta Roll with Butter!

Lobsta Roll with Butter!

I know – it’s pretty dinky. But the split-top buns are always toasted to a golden crisp and stuffed full of lobster meat glistening with hot butter. When we visited New Hampshire and Boston recently, we were surprised to find that the Maine-style (a lobster salad of sorts dressed in mayo) is much more common. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Connecticut-style and the one from Lobsta Truck is definitely worth the $12.

Live Music

Live Music

An outdoor festival is not complete without live entertainment, and we managed to snag seats right next to the band, playing lively music we could sway to while enjoying our lobster rolls.

The Chocolate Traveler - Tabasco Chocolate

The Chocolate Traveler – Tabasco Chocolate

I had seen and sampled The Chocolate Traveler at Taste of Beverly Hills a few years ago, and I recognized their adorable round tins packed with wedges of silky dark chocolate. This time they had a new variety – tabasco flavored! I thought they were delicious and captured the vinegary, peppery flavor of tabasco quite well. Martin felt quite a kick to his taste buds though.

Champignon - Cambozola Black Label

Champignon – Cambozola Black Label

More cheese! I’m not a huge fan of blue cheeses, but this triple-cream Cambozola Black Label was really wonderful. It was creamy and had a pleasantly nutty flavor. Martin mentioned that it was reminiscent of the cheeses we had at Cowgirl Creamery in Petaluma.

Hot's Kitchen Menu

Hot’s Kitchen Menu

Still a bit hungry, we followed the sights and smells leading us to the cardboard trays of fries. Turns out, they originated from Hot’s Kitchen and they were not just any fries — they were Belgian truffle fries. Sign us up!

Tossing in the truffle oil

Tossing in the truffle oil

Their simple but crowd-pleasing menu of burgers, fries, and tacos meant that there was a bit of a wait but the trade-off was made-to-order noms. Here’s one of their team members tossing a fresh-out-of-the-oil batch of fries liberally with truffle oil.

Belgian Truffle Fries - shaved parmesan, maitake aioli

Belgian Truffle Fries – shaved parmesan, maitake aioli

Doesn’t that look amazing? Being Belgian-style fries, the potato sticks had a great balance of crispy exterior to fluffy, soft insides. The aroma of truffle oil wafted up to our noses as we ate, and the shaved parmesan added just enough saltiness. I liked the maitake aioli but Martin found the texture a bit chunky for his preference.

Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee

Our last stop for the day was at Grande Avenue Coffee. Martin selected the iced coffee, which remarkably resembled Vietnamese-style ca phe sua da! It was so good and the perfect beverage for the warm, summer-in-LA day.

Crimsonberry Iced Tea

Crimsonberry Iced Tea

I decided to go with the crimsonberry iced tea – a blend of elderflower, rose hips, cranberry, and other goodies that add so much flavor to the iced tea that not a granule of sugar was needed. Super refreshing!

We had a fantastic time at LA WineFest and are already looking forward to next year’s 9th Annual event. Hope you will mark your calendars too – if you haven’t checked it out yet, you’re missing out!

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Check out LA WineFest: lawinefest.com

The Historic Raleigh Studios
5300 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038

See their Yelp reviews here!