Preparing the Oscar Night Feast for Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Viewing Party

Preparing one of Hollywood’s highest profile banquets for 1,000 people is in and of itself worthy of an award. And even if you done it 10 years running, as Chef Wayne Elias has with his Crumble Catering Company in collaboration with Chef Gordon Ramsay, working on the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar viewing dinner and afterparty is the most exciting night of the year.

Only a handful of catering companies have the know-how and logistics to handle such a huge event. The menu planning process — and subsequent tastings–starts in November for the six passed hors d’oeuvres and the five-course meal that is served to guests.

Elias creates the hors d’oeuvres while Ramsay does the dinner and over the past decade there are certain items that never go out of style. like Elias’ grilled cheese sandwiches on raisin bread with mascarpone, cut into little triangles.

Easy-to-eat is a key ingredient in everything that is served to the high-profile attendees– nothing messy or overly complicated with too many sauces– just the highest quality, with often locally sourced and organic ingredients to delight the palette. Food trends are also taken into consideration in keeping with the fun spirit of the evening, Hollywood’s biggest night.

“We don’t want to do things that are crazy, and we have to consider dietary restrictions and make sure there is a selection for the main course and that there are vegetarian and vegan options,” says Elias, who supervises a staff of 125 servers, 14 bartenders, 6 captains, 45 cooks and 12 dishwashers in a temporary kitchen set up at the West Hollywood Park.

Some of the food is pre-prepped at Elias’s restaurant in Los Feliz, Rockwell, but most is prepared on-site at the satellite kitchen that is built to his specifications.

“Most challenging is the timing of what needs to be done, from finishing the plating to serving the banquet in waves” he says. “You have to be thoroughly organized and on point. Even though it’s my 10th year, it’s like my first year. I’m 100% hands-on.”

So here’s what’s on the menu. Appetizers– in addition to Elton John’s favorite grilled cheese raisin bread sandwiches–include homemade Yukon potato chips with salmon tartare and seared duck breast on potato latkes with frisee and raspberry aioli.

Entrée choices for dinner are citrus steamed sea bass with grapefruit, lemon and lime, Jasmine rice with fava beans and chili oil or grilled New York steak with truffle fingerling potato with Parmesan and creamed spinach.

After that beautiful dinner served during the Oscar ceremony, and which must be completed by the time the last award is handed out, there still is more food to come in the post-party, which is known to rage late into the night.

Guests can pick and choose from a sweets and savory buffett designed around comfort-friendly food like short rib sliders and chilled shrimp cocktail, spicy chicken meatballs with lemongrass ginger dip and Portobello mushroom French fries. For dessert, five choices including cake pops and chocolate bon bons. As one experienced guest noted, “There is no calorie counting on this night, there’s just huge heapings of fun and excitement.”

–Hillary Atkin

 

 

Taking Rooftop Dining to New Heights at Montage Beverly Hills

If you were to dream up the perfect place for alfresco rooftop dining–poolside, no less– a place with a magnificent view and a curated seasonal menu perfect for the end of summer, you can make it a reality at the Conservatory Grill at Montage Beverly Hills.

 

Head straight up to the top level of the hotel, and even if the weather conditions are not conducive to outdoor dining, you can sit inside and still take advantage of the lovely view in an oasis for leisurely casual yet elegant dining, befitting of the Montage’s luxury status.

 

The rooftop grill is open from 7a.m. until 7 p.m. every day, with a new early evening sunset menu created by executive chef Gabriel Ask. It features a variety of dishes ranging from Crab Louis Lettuce Wraps and Harvest Kale Salad to local Halibut Tacos and a Steak Salad punctuated with poached pear bleu cheese and roasted shallot vinaigrette.

On Sundays, a special dinner is served until 9 p.m. Having just experienced it, we can’t wait to go back while the fading rays of the sun still bring warmth through the beautiful, soft light of a Southern California summer.

It’s a great setting to enjoy a selection of specialty cocktails includes the Cucumber Melon Martini and the popular Montage Margarita, a glass of bubbly like Veuve Clicquot or any other libation of your choice.

 

Perusing the menu, there were some difficult decisions—because everything looked tempting. We decided to start off with the spicy tuna spring rolls and Dungeness crab cakes, both of which were superb.

We couldn’t resist indulging in the Seafood Plateau, which features Jumbo Shrimp, Maine Lobster, Kushi Oysters and Snow Crab. As with all the menu items, the presentation was gorgeous.

Our other choice for main course was the Prime Filet Mignon with a bountiful side of garlic spinach, more than enough for two to share. So delicious, it was definitely doggy-bagged.

Our other choice for main course was the Prime Filet Mignon with a bountiful side of garlic spinach, more than enough for two to share. So delicious, it was definitely doggy-bagged.

 

Sure, twist our arms, we had dessert, thanks to the gentle persuasion of the wait staff, who had provided attentive service throughout the evening. As the capper to a lovely night, we enjoyed the recommended flourless chocolate cake and the lemon tart.

Sated and satisfied, we enjoyed finishing the evening under the light of a full moon.

 

The Rooftop Conservatory Grill at Montage Beverly Hills, 225 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA, Breakfast Daily, 7:00 – 11:00 a.m., Lunch Daily, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Sunset Dining, Monday – Saturday, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Sunday Suppers,  6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

For reservations, (310) 860-7990

Prime Location. Prime Ribeye. Del Frisco’s Plants Its Flag at the Epicenter of Surf and Sand

Ahi tacos. Pesto chicken flatbread. Shaved prime steak sandwich.

Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue restaurant row just got a welcome addition to its dining scene with the splashy opening of Del Frisco’s Grille, where these signature items and others from the menu quickly disappeared from the trays that were generously being passed to guests that partied well into the night.

Del Frisco’s has a prime location – across from the pier in the spot that used to be Il Fornaio– at the corner of Ocean and Colorado. Yes, it’s the epicenter of Santa Monica’s tourist district during the summer, perhaps reminiscent of the crowds that flock to Times Square, but it’s worth working your way through them to take a table at the new restaurant.

 

This is the establishment’s first outpost in California, with others in New York, Washington DC, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix.

 

Management pulled out all the stops at the party last week, and succeeded in making a great first impression, from having the general manager greet guests before they were plied with cocktails to incredibly attentive service from the wait staff, who offered bountiful selections from the menu.

 

There were not one but two huge showstoppers that had everyone talking. The raw bar, stocked with large tail-on shrimp and fresh oysters, and a scene-stealing ice sculpture replica of the iconic Santa Monica pier sign– through which specialty cocktails were being dispensed.

 

Luckily, despite torrid temperatures throughout Southern California, the moderate climes at the beach enabled them to last all night.

 

Several hundred invited guests enjoyed the festivities, both indoors and outside. Although tables had been removed to make room for everyone, scoring one on the patio overlooking the pier is sure to be one of the greatest pleasures of summer at the beach.

 

The wide-ranging menu offers something for every taste for lunch and dinner, from salads to steaks and seafood, sandwiches and flatbreads, even including gluten-free items.

 

Del Frisco’s Grille, 1551 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA (310) 395-7333

www.desfriscosgrille.com

The Taste Sates Appetites For Fine Food, Drink and Frivolity

The backlot of Paramount Pictures—including its famed New York Street—is a popular location for charity and fashion events, but it may never have seen as much concentrated revelry as it did for the three-day Taste food festival, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times over Labor Day weekend.

The culinary extravaganza encompassed five separate events: Field to Ford, Cocktail Confidential, Flavors of L.A., Dinner & Drinks and the grand finale Labor Day Picnic, held under a scorching midday sun.

Each featured demonstrations and discussions with a noted Times food or restaurant writer and a top chef, experts like Russ Parsons and Ray Garcia, Jessica Gelt and Julian Cox, Jonathan Gold and Evan Kleiman, Betty Hallock and The Beer Chicks (aka Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune) and Noelle Carter and Zoe Nathan.

The festival attracted thousands of guests, avid food and drink enthusiasts who got the chance to sampleSouthern California’s diverse epicurean offerings with unlimited tastings from standout restaurants like Simon LA, Boa and Supperclub and a selection of food trucks. Sure, there were long lines, but they moved quickly and complaints were scarce.

 

The range of beer, wine, spirits and creative cocktails being shaken and stirred was off the charts. Just the vodkas alone ranged from the new Double Cross vodka from Slovakia in a killer rectangular bottle to Absolut, Akvinta, Cupcake, Chopin, Pearl, Svedka and Karlsson’s Gold.

So many delicious dishes, so little room left in the tummy to try to squeeze them all in. Some of our faves: ahi tuna on watermelon from Simon LA, and served up by chef Kerry Simon, the made to order burgers from The Counter, worth the wait, the lobster tostadas from Cast Iron Gourmet and the crab salad from Supperclub. The quality of the seafood and the perfection of the aspic was a combination that sent us back for more.

 

For dessert, hands down it was the out of this world small batch gourmet ice creams from Sweet Rose Creamery. We got to their stand after they ran out of ice cream sliders, but when they still had plenty of creamy deliciousness to serve up on its own. We fell head over heels for the cinnamon with a slice of Niman Ranch bacon on top, the salted caramel and the sweet corn flavor, the color of which reminded us of butter, the perfect accompaniment to corn. We’re still having foodie reveries about these unique flavors, and will be visiting their location at the Brentwood Country Mart in the very near future.

 

One of the greatest elements of a food festival are discoveries like this, of trying interesting dishes, sampling new restaurants and tasting a vast array of beverages. Old favorites are also enjoyed. Who doesn’t like a nice cold glass of Stella Artois on a hot summer’s night? Or a new flavor of Snapple to cool down during the day?

And while we preferred the venue variety of last year’s Taste–in addition to Paramount, there were events downtown and in Beverly Hills–we walked away from the lot in a state of culinary contentment.

A Delicious Taste of David Burke Kitchen

The Kitchen, located in the ground floor of Soho’s trendy yet elegant new James Hotel, is the latest addition to David Burke’s restaurant kingdom.

 

It was our first experience within the DB Empire, unless you count the little foray to the David Burke location at Bloomingdale’s at 59th and Lex just prior to what turned out to be a deeply fulfilling dining experience.

 

Yes, we were on the phone with the maître d’ at the Kitchen, making a minor adjustment to the time of reservation even as we were trying on clothes and other anxious shoppers were knocking on the door of the prime, standalone dressing room we had commandeered to see if it was available. So we had to disclose our location and therefore, were given the order to stop downstairs at the boite for a glass of the famous sangria–and that’s where it all began.

 

Cut to several hours later and all dressed up for the occasion – although we could have come more casually– we walked into the warm, inviting space and unexpectedly met David at the door and relayed our pleasant Bloomie’s sangria interlude– the perfect capper to a tough day of shopping.

The restaurant’s interior is designed to reflect the surrounding SoHo neighborhood, blending the industrial, clean lines of a spacious, airy loft with that of a rustic farmhouse – a perfect “urban farmhouse” venue to showcase Burke’s locally sourced fare.

 

Guests can get a behind the scenes view of the open kitchen and a glass-enclosed wine cave from their perches in the 130-seat dining room. A central carving station provides an element of drama where a variety of meats including beef, game birds, ham and chicken are carved and popular menu items like lobster, whole roasted fish and casseroles are also plated for diners.

 

Taken to a spacious table, we were promptly set up with a round of Burke’s signature appetizers, which are served in jars, including a shrimp cocktail with horseradish and a chicken liver and pistachio pate. We also couldn’t resist a serving of what turned out to be addictive maple bacon wrapped dates.

 

There’s a whole starter menu to follow, which includes lobster soup, a traditional wedge salad with a twist—spiced pecans and dried cranberries, roasted beet salmon crudo and the signature salmon pastrami, served on thin pretzel sticks.

 

For our main course, we tried the award-winning lobster steak which Burke recommended, saying if the kitchen was out of it, he would make us one. It was a dive into delectability, one of those dishes that makes a foodie fantasy a reality. Yet it was a difficult choice. We were also tempted by the roast organic chicken, the dry aged prime rib eye, the sea scallops and the monkfish tail.

 

Somehow, we found room for dessert and tucked into the constructed chocolate and peanut butter sundae. Every bite was a distinct taste sensation that put us in choco-heaven. But the sweetness wasn’t over yet, as we were served a cheesecake pop tree, with various versions on lollipops.

 

Although the restaurant is known for its mixology and unique cocktails, it was New Year’s week and we celebrated a fine night out with champagne, and toasted to another upcoming visit in the near future.

 

David Burke Kitchen, 23 Grand Street, New York City, (212) 201-9119, www.davidburkekitchen.com

Palomino is Keeping Things ‘Happy’ All Day

Westwood Village is undergoing a resurgence and Palomino restaurant is a great place to get a taste of it.

 

The spacious art-filled restaurant and bar has been around for awhile (actually, since Westwood was in its heyday 20 years ago) in a great corner location just off Wilshire Blvd., but it’s always energizing to walk through the doors and get a perch by a window, either in the bar or dining area.

 

The bar is known for its all day and all night happy hour, a congenial place for drinks and appetizers that is a favorite of people who work in the nearby offices. It is roomy, yet vibrant and very welcoming. Menu selections include a slate of wood-fired pizzas, dips and salads.

 

If you’re coming for lunch or dinner, the first thing that you’ll notice is the warm greeting by the hosts as you’re escorted to your table. And then it’s time to peruse the menu of items created by chef Verite Mazzola for your dining pleasure, along with the wine list, which conveniently features some half bottles like Clos Duval Cabernet Sauvignon, alongside its otherwise wide-ranging selection.

 

We love the calamari and the crab cakes as starters, or the famous and addicting Dungeness crab artichoke dip. The brick oven flatbreads are always a sure bet. And for the mains, there’s always a beautiful selection of fresh grilled fish, prawns, rotisserie pork and steaks with interesting accompaniments like crispy rosemary potatoes and pancetta green beans.

 

One night, the special was heavenly lobster risotto–and there is always a full selection of pastas like cappellini pomodoro and four cheese penne. For chicken lovers, there are varied preparations like chicken parmesan and chicken marsala.

If you have room for dessert, the warm chocolate cake is a perfect topper to a great meal, as is the limoncello sorbet. 

Palomino, 10877 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles (310) 208-1960 , www.palomino.com

Champagne Wednesdays: A Bubbly Good Time Under the Stars

Want that in-the-club, bottle service feel without having to deal with doormen and sky-high parking– and be outside, under the stars to boot?

Oh, and in addition to all of those things, if you’re a champagne person, you must put Wednesday nights at Sonoma Wine Garden on your calendar for a festive outdoor evening. If you don’t know about SWG, it has the best location on the third floor dining deck of the newly redone Santa Monica Place mall, just up the elevator from the valet parking entrance on Second Street north of Colorado. And, forget about that $20 you grudgingly fork over to park in a Hollywood hotspot–you’ll get free valet parking for three hours with a validation.

SWG has become widely known for its lunch  on the sun-drenched patio, fun bar scene and dinner inside dining rooms decorated with wine casks. Earlier in the summer, they started doing Champagne Wednesdays in the outdoor lounge area with the bottle service set up. What that means is you buy a bottle of the featured bubbly, whether it be Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon or Moet Chandon and get a bottle of Moet free. Or, for groups of four women together, they’ll get a free bottle of prosecco. But hurry, this is scheduled to end at the end of September.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many other reasons to try out the restaurant. The cuisine is Mediterranean-inspired with seasonal Southern California grown ingredients, and popular menu items like a charcuterie plate, hummus and truffle fries are available all night for the champagne people. So go ahead, pop the cork, and enjoy.

Sonoma Wine Garden, 395 Santa Monica Pl., Santa Monica, (424) 214-4560, www.sonomawinegarden.com

The Taste: A Supremely Satisfying 4-Day Food and Wine Fest

“Fashion Bites” brunch on Rodeo–one of The Taste’s delicious events

In what other locale. we ask of you, could you traverse three diverse locations over four days, and have your fill of some of the best food a city has to offer, not to mention a staggering choice of libations both niche and well-known?

 

And all over a holiday weekend. Yes, the four-day food festival known as The Taste has instantly become a Southern California  tradition after the huge success of its first edition at venues inBeverly Hills, Hollywood, and downtown Los Angeles.

 

The Taste, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times and Food and Wine Magazine, actually evolved from a similar–and similarly fabulous–event last year beginning on 9-02-10, the perfect day to mark the beginning of the festivities in Beverly Hills and its famous zip code, which took place over the Labor Day holiday last year as well.

 

This time, just like from a menu, thousands of attendees could pick and choose from a list of events at the different locations, with each a separate ticket price.

 

There was Burgers & Beer in Beverly Hills at the old Robinsons-May parking lot, where things got off to a stellar start on Friday night. More in the mood for cocktails? That same night, it was the Art of Mixing on the Paramount lot, always a festive place to have an event amongst the movie façades of old New York Street. DJ Jason Bentley, whose publicity shot reminds us of  designer/director Tom Ford, provided the the right groove and Mariachi el Bronx brought the energy level even higher with its live sets.

 

On Saturday, Beverly Hills boasted Secrets from the Kitchen and Cellar, replete with food and wine seminars and cooking demonstrations from top chefs and naturally, an all-you-could-eat and drink lunch. As the sun went down at Paramount Studios, it was time for the Taco Tequila Tryst, hosted by food truck pioneer and chef Roy Choi.

 

The Southern California weather was in complete cooperation Sunday as sunshine and perfect temps reigned onRodeo Drive for the Fashion Bites Brunch, where guests had their run of the street without cars–and access to all the famous fashion names that line it.

 

That evening, Mother Nature unleashed some surprise rain on the Street Eats gig at  Paramount, but it only added to specialness of the evening, and with one of the vendors giving out bright yellow umbrellas, you had to wonder for a second if it wasn’t just special effects staged at the studio.

 

Sunday night was the big hurrah with Food Noir on Broadway between 8th and 9th streets in downtown LA, where thousands of people turned up to eat, drink and party in a place you normally can’t– and have access to old films being shown at the historic Orpheum Theater.

Concurrently, Desserts after Dark in Beverly Hills satisfied the sweet tooth of hundreds of people who didn’t want to make the trek downtown. Not being able to be in two places at once, we opted for downtown and ended up closing down the street under the watchful eye of security and LAPD officers as the neighborhood was starting to reveal its sketchiness as the night grew longer.

Monday’s finale was back at Beverly Hills for the Labor Day Picnic in the Hills that drew a huge family-friendly crowd that offered a little something for everyone: from wine seminars to a popular lemonade stand, serving up the chilled beverage with either strawberry and mint or watermelon and basil in a cute, take-home Mason jar with a handle, and a lid.

One of the most exciting aspects of the festival was the sense of diverse culinary  discovery along with the ability to do all you can eat from your favorite boites that normally don’t offer such a thing.

 

Every event brought it share of highlights, with very few off moments. On burgers and beer night, the array of offerings was almost overwhelming, with more than 25 purveyors grilling up their best burgers along with an amazing selection of international and locally crafted beers along with a healthy wine selection.

 

Here are our top three hamburger favorites:

– the burger from Osteria la Buca, a new place we “discovered” and will soon be headed to, located on Melrose east of Paramount,  made with short rib, brisket and prime on a pizza dough-type bun

–25 Degrees’ (in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel) spicy, heavenly hatch green chile and arugula burger topped with chipotle aioli and Nueske bacon, and, drumroll please–

– the astoundingly delicious burger from Santa Monica’s new-ish The Misfit (in the spot where Anisette was on Santa Monica Blvd., between the 3rd St. Promenade and 2nd Street. Full disclosure: they were so irresistibly good that we had two of them, and made friends with executive chef Bruce Kalman and in the process of complimenting him on the quality of the meat and the overall presentation.

 

In the brews category, we particularly liked Chang, fromThailand,Italy’s Peroni– which had a beautiful lounge set up between the 2/10 atop theBeverly Hillsparking lot and was also serving up a selection of Italian ices, and long-time favorite Blue Moon.

 

At the Art of Mixing, we sampled Absolut’s new apple vodka, Sobieski’s Polish potato vodka and how delicious it was with ginger syrup and Veev’s fun cocktails in jars made with fresh herbs and juices. Good thing closing time wasmidnightor who knows how late the festivities would’ve gone on.

 

The Taco Tequila Tryst boasted some new takes on Mexican food and our favorite restaurant name: Mexikosher. You got it, kosher Mexican in the Pico-Robertson kosher belt, and one of the few places not featuring pulled pork, which is immensely popular these days, but not on our list.

 

Exhibiting restaurants ranged from the trendy Red O, serving a delicious shrimp with caviar on jicama “taco,” to Pink Taco serving up an addictive brisket quesadilla and scrumptious ceviche. An A+ for effort goes to presenting sponsor Hornitos tequila, which served up drinks from a customized booth where no detail was too small, including a recently commissioned velvet painting of one of its bottles. Crowds were also lured by its giveaway of handblown shot glasses, wrapped in black-and-white Hornitos bandannas– items sure to come in handy. Another favorite was Death’s Door vodka, a boutique brand brewed in theGreat Lakesregion. Mionetto was also on hand with its prosecco, if you weren’t into the harder stuff.

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales benefited organizations including Share Our Strength, Beverly Hills Education Foundation, Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona, Los Angeles Times Family Fund’s Summer Camp Campaign and Los Angeles Conservancy.

 

 

 

Pasta on Park Ave. South: The ONE Group Scores Another Hit With Asellina

Ristorante Asselina: Swanky and sophisticated (photo courtesy Helen Pearson)

 

 

An upbeat, energetic, sexy vibe greets guests as they enter Ristorante Asellina, located in the ground floor of the Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel. Asellina made its debut about nine months ago and is already one of the hottest spots on the street.

 

The rustic Italian concept is the latest entrée from hospitality trendsetters The One Group, who also count STK (with locations inNew York, Miami and Los Angeles) Tenjune and The Collective under their culinary umbrella.

 

Asellina is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and recently started a killer Saturday and Sunday brunch, all overseen by gastronomic maestro, executive chef Marco Porceddu, who captures the flavors and passion of his native Sardinia, and translates them to vibrant menus and scrumptious specials.

 

The beautiful space, created by ICRAVE design studio, features gleaming warm words, polished leather and contemporary lighting that makes the attractive crowd and more so.

 

You wouldn’t know that it seats more than 300 people, because the venue is divided into unique areas inside and out. With the warm weather, there’s outside dining on Park Avenue. Just inside, there’s a space called the Library Bar with a lounge environment with the full menu available. The main dining room features spacious tables and a communal bar to which solo diners have flocked.

 

Off the main dining room, where a DJ spins Wednesday through Saturday nights is the Taverna, a separate bar that can be used for private events–and another outdoor area called the Garden.

 

That gives guests a variety of environments in which to enjoy the food and drink. And unlike other large restaurants that have a nightclubby vibe, the noise level is under control.

 

During lunch and for the late afternoon/early evening, it’s a business crowd, but as the night grows later, the crowd gets younger.

 

Wild Mushroom Flatbread with Stracchino Cheese and Spring Onions (photo courtesy Noah Flecks)

They’re coming back to get some of the signature dishes. To start, there are the  fresh Cerignola olives stuffed with veal and parmesan in a semolina crust and finished with truffle oil, a swordfish carpaccio with pink peppercorn and orange zest and wood-fired meatballs.

 

Once you dive into the Porceddu version of pizza and flatbreads, there’s no going back. Very few people have been spotted with doggie bags– they can’t resist the thin-crusted delights.

 

Pasta lovers will be very pleased with the offerings, which include the square spaghetti with pomodoro sauce, fresh gnocchi with basil pesto and air-dried ricotta, tagliolini which combines clams and calamari and pappardelle with wild pork, red wine and fresh nutmeg.

 

Secondi, main courses, are based on classic Italian dishes that are contemporized with an array of tasty ingredients like veal chop Milanese with arugula and cherry tomatoes, braised lamb shank with potato gnocchi and fresh basil and grilled calamari with sautéed asparagus and oven-dried tomatoes.

 

Save room for dessert, because no Italian meal would be complete without dolci. Among the choices, citrus panna cotta topped with candied pistachios.

Brunch star: the Quartino with the trio of fresh fruit juices (photo courtesy Noah Flecks)

Weekend brunch has all the makings of a New York institution and orders pour in for the Quartino Bellini, a carafe of Prosecco served with fresh peach, blood orange and raspberry juices. It’s just $15, and for $9 more you can have the prix-fixe brunch, which features an entrée like Italian frittatas and wood-fired eggs, coffee or tea, and homemade muffins.

 

On Sundays, a live jazz trio accompanies the festivities from noon until 3 p.m.

 

Speaking of spirits, the wine list and cocktail selection is superb. The great wine-growing regions of Italyare represented in a wide array of selections, but the list also features vintages from Spain, Argentina and California.

 

Mixology also takes full advantage of the aperitifs that are native to Italy, but might be new to you. A perfect summer refresher is the Lupanare, which combines blood orange flavored Solerno liquer with lime, white cranberry and Bacardi O.

 

If you wonder about the origins of the name Asellina, it’s the name of the woman from an ancient Pompeii legend. She was a beautiful, sensual entrepreneur– the owner of a tavern — with a sign over the door that said “Here Dwells Happiness.”

 

The same could be said of the new establishment that bears her name.

 

Asellina, 420 Park Avenue South, New York City, (212) 317-2908, www.asellina.com

It’s Never Too Late for a Great Meal Downtown or by the Beach

The kitchen is always open at the Pacific Dining Car

“I’m sorry, the kitchen is closed” is a refrain that’s often heard in LA’s finer restaurants, as it is in cities across America that are not New York or Las Vegas.  And if you’ve ever slipped in just before closing time and experienced the barely- veiled exasperation of staff waiting to clean up and go home, that’s no picnic either.

Neither situation will ever confront you at either location of the Pacific Dining Car, a Southern California institution that is open 24 hours a day. So if you are feeling a USDA prime sirloin at midnight, PDC– not to be confused with another local institution, the Pacific Design Center–is the place.

The inception of the Dining Car goes back to the roaring 20s, and it’s been at the same downtown location since 1923. The Santa Monica branch on Wilshire Boulevard opened in 1990.

Both feature the sort of old-school period luxury where everyone from movie stars to hard-core foodies to hipsters and the nightlife crowd feel right at home.

Although the classic steakhouse menu doesn’t change much, there is a breath of fresh air in the kitchen with the recent hiring of executive Chef Michael Rosen, from previous perches at Reign, the dearly-departed Maple Driveand Les Anges and his own Zeke’s Smokehouse.

“After sitting down with Michael on a few separate occasions and talking about the company vision, his and mine, I felt confident that we were on the same page,” says PDC owner Wesley Idol, part of the fourth generation of family members that has owned the Dining Car. “Michael’s not only a phenomenal chef, he’s a businessman who understands what it takes to maintain a fine dining establishment and provide customers with excellent service.  As well, he understands all the hard work that goes into sustaining success in the restaurant industry.”

Just like everything else that’s been around for a while, it’s time for a bit of a makeover. There are now weekly specials, like free corkage every Wednesday, wine tastings Fridays, Date Night—where couples get a complimentary dessert– and happy hours Monday through Friday from 6PM-9PM, plus a variety of musical entertainment on Saturday nights.

The new late-night menu, starting at11 PM, features all your favorite steaks and sides, plus a selection of salads and the ever-popular chocolate chip pancakes, along with drink specials under $15.

Obviously, liquor laws have to be followed, so you won’t be able to drink past normal closing hours. But hey, nice try.

And speaking of pancakes, the Dining Car’s Sunday breakfast/brunch features a special deal for kids under 12 years old. They can build their own brunch by choosing an egg, turkey, bacon, and a side for $10. And we would be neglectful not to mention the friendly, professional service that accompanies every meal.

We’ll see you there, 24/7.

Pacific Dining Car, Santa Monica: 2700 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 453-4000

Downtown Los Angeles: 1310 W. 6th Street, (213) 483-6000

www.pacificdiningcar.com