The Food Stalker Hall of Fame…

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There’s the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television and Film but perhaps we should have a walk of fame dedicated to those who quench our appetite for sexy eateries and killer cocktails called The Food Stalker Walk of Fame! Can’t you see it now, the likes of Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck leaning over their five-point terrazzo and brass stars, embedded in the sidewalk posing for the camera? Look, if they can bend the rules to include the Apollo 11 astronauts, why not pay homage to chefs who give us live performances every day? LA may be the city of movie stars but the chefs are the ones who are rock stars. Let me make a few calls to the Chamber of Commerce to light a fire (in my spare time)!

One burning question though, how do celebs control their bittersweet itch without having to reach for control top panty hose the next morning? People ask me all the time, “What are your favorite spots in LA”, so this huntress decided to create a list featuring my top five must-try restaurants. It’s simply places that appeal to my palate with good ambiance and service. Compiling this list was no easy task. It required weeks of stalking, including dinners, cocktails, taking photographs, writing, calling and editing (and then my fingers fell off). Truth be told, it’s not really stalking, just very detailed research, close up people watching one might say. There are so many hidden gems, it’s hard to narrow it down but here goes…

Melisse has become a California favorite for world travelers searching for an exemplary dining experience. Chef Josiah Citrin is a master of French fusion who marries ingredients procured at Santa Monica’s Farmers’ Market with superb meat and seafood. Luna oyster & Santa Barbara Uni with grilled scallion, hibiscus & chrysanthemum, Lobster Bolognese with black truffles and Liberty Duck Breast & confit are sublime. Melisse shines with attentive service, fine wine and elegant French-country home decor. Pure heaven – even better than a plateful of Louboutins! *Citrin’s cookbook, In Pursuit of Excellence was awarded the gold medal by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Spago – Tan, toned Beverly Hills residents call Spago home. With Wolfgang Pucks newly renovated restaurant, he’s taken an already humming dining scene into overdrive. Spago ensures every bite of California cuisine is a revelation and gets the finest ingredients: Heirloom tomato salads taste more tomato-y, and the white corn in mascarpone agnolotti is the sweetest on the planet. Composition of plates is often genius – white corn purée and mascarpone-mushroom emulsion make Alaskan halibut with caramelized corn, wild chanterelles, and bacon confit crazy good. Soup textures are perfection and the Tasting menus are where they really shine. Meeting this legendary chef to document the Oscar’s was like that moment when you first learn to ride your bike without training wheels. Epic! Pastry Chef Sherry Yard’s delectable desserts will leave you breathless. Look for A-List celebs and big time movers and shakers.

Cecconis is a classic Italian restaurant on the corner of Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood. They feature a menu of simply prepared, Venetian influenced food and drink. Be sure to sit at the bar with its wood-burning oven or outside on the terrace to enjoy great Italian food full of flavor. Appetizers of Beef tartare with quail egg and Swordfish carpaccio were scrumptious. Pizza with black truffles, burrata cheese and zucchini blossom made me long for the Amalfi coast. The sea salt branzino with cherry tomato & Taggiasca dish still resonates with me. Seamless service that’s pampering without being obsequious. (reservation required).

Scarpetta-  nestled in the Montage Hotel, Beverly Hills the ambiance is relaxed.  Perfect for low-lit romance but bright enough to keep an eye out for celebrity diners. When I go to dinner I want to be able to have a good conversation without having to yell. This is just the place! Scott Conant’s spaghetti with tomato & basil is smooth and velvety, just like Grandma used to make. I had a full-on foodie meltdown. The noodles are homemade, coarse-cut and bitey. And the sauce! The sweet, acidic intensity of the tomato is mellowed by super creamy butter…it’s transcendent. Black maccheroni with sea urchin and roasted capretto has also become a delicious trademark.

Bottega Louie – You don’t have to be Michelin-starred restaurant to impress me. Sometimes the world’s best foods are the simplest. From the outside you’ll be lured to the bakery full of gleaming dessert cases full of sweets. Inside, the restaurant space is gorgeous, simple, classy and urban chic. The kitchen is visible and you can find yourself getting lost in the moment as you watch the chefs in action. Chef Jason Hotchkiss hails from Maine and his talented hand in the kitchen is reflected in every dish. Indulge in the Portobello fries, Brussel sprouts, asparagus with fried egg, homemade pizza and of course dessert. I love this place for their casual food but most importantly, the Macaroons. I die! I would be willing to catch trains, planes and automobiles to experience it again and bring home one of those smashing pink boxes full of macaroons.

Bucket List: Baco Mercat  – home of the baco, a signature flatbread sandwich developed by chef Josef Centeno. has already put it on the essential 38-dining list for LA and Jonathan Gold placed it on his top 99.  Doms – California American food, fifties style, artsy crowd with unassuming celebs. Lucques – for a sublime gastronomic encounter, The Playground and Rao’s are all on my list.

What a thrill to interview legendary chefs from around the world, sample haute cuisine and share my escapades. Once the scent strikes there’s no telling where it’ll take me next…

* From the archives 


1 Comment

  1. Eva Finn

    January 31, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    Love the spots. Got any OC favorites? I love Italian :) Oh and I agree, Rao’s is awesome – although I’ve only been to the one in Vegas. Does that count?

With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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