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EAT PRAY LOVE

BY ANDREA RADEMAN

EAT PRAY LOVE, directed by Ryan Murphy, screenplay by Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt, based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. After a divorce, Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) leaves ex-husband (Billy Crudup) and lover (James Franco) in New York and embarks on a daring journey of self-discovery. Eating in Italy she learns the joy of simple pleasures; meditating at an ashram in India she discovers the power of prayer; and in Bali she finds inner peace, friendship (Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis), and love (Javier Bardem). The film doesn’t open till August but you can start eating, praying, and loving, Venice-style, right now.

For inspiration, read National Geographic’s coffee table book, FOOD JOURNEYS OF A LIFETIME: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe ($40, less at Amazon. com) serves up famous chefs and fivestar restaurants; local cafés and regional specialties; fascinating sidebars and top ten lists on everything from chocolate factories to historic food markets and Tokyo’s freshest sushi.

The ideal way to access that sushi is to fly KOREAN AIR to Tokyo (daily nonstops leave at 11:40 AM and arrive at 3PM local time) or Seoul (three nonstops depart daily from LAX). A business class ticket gets you into the Morning Calm Lounge pre-flight, where you can partake of a meal, a massage chair, and even a shower. On board, settle into a roomy Prestige Plus seat that adjusts into multiple different positions, including a BED, so you arrive rested and fresh. That is, if you’re not distracted by the dozens of movies available on your private monitor — I watched four in each direction, including one that hadn’t yet been released in L.A. Sushi was on the menu, as was prawn and scallop salad; asparagus soup; bibimbap, teriyaki eel, roasted cod with pasta; cheese tray; breads; desserts; and a wine list that includes cocktails, global beers and Laurent-Perrier champagne. Ramen and freshly baked cookies fill the gap until an equally impressive dinner arrives. The siren call of personalized service, in-seat entertainment, designer meals, and all the booze you can (but shouldn’t) drink are enticing, but nothing will assure your well-being as much as a seat that becomes a bed.

Domenico Frasca is offering an unbeatable lunch deal for two at his intimate DOMENICO RISTORANTE (1637 Silver Lake Blvd; 323-661-6166), the kind of friendly place serving authentic specialties that Liz Gilbert ate at in Rome. Chef Bustamante’s choice of 10 different salads and soups, panini stuffed with prosciutto di Parma, parmigiano cheese and grilled pepper or one of 10 pasta entrees, such as homemade lasagna with chicken and vegetables or salmon with asparagus on hand-made fettuccine. End with a Venetian tiramisu or lemon sorbet doused with sweet Prosecco. Frasca, who divides his time between Naples and LA, combines the best of both places with regional Italian dishes served on the patio or in the cozy dining room. You’ll feel like you’re eating at the home of a friend — and you are.

Most restaurants come and go but probably not even Ann Sweeney herself would have guessed in 1997, when she opened AMMO (1155 N. Highland Ave, Midcity; 323- 467-3293) as a tiny take-away kitchen and breakfast ‘n’ lunch spot, an arm of her catering company, that fourteen years on it would not only be here, but be one of the few threestar restaurants in this fickle city. Benny Bohm, the hospitable and disarming GM and Wine Director, is partly responsible for this success, having guided the front of the house since the early days. The space has doubled and the décor, while still a minimalist’s dream of pale wood and boxy shapes, has kept the restraint but added an air of sophistication. Breakfast and lunch are still busy, dinners a tad less so, which makes for a comfortable experience. Sunday brunch will soon be joined by Saturday brunch. The big deal dessert used to be a classy ice cream sandwich but now that pastry chef Roxana Jullapat (ex-Campanile, Bastide, Lucques, and A.O.C.) has arrived, so has orgasmic cherry brown butter crostata, nectarine and blackberry cobbler with verbena ice cream, and gateau au chocolate with honey-roasted apricots and noyau ice cream. Her husband, executive chef Daniel Mattern, also has a Campanile-Lucques-A.O.C. pedigree. Both spent time at Clarklewis in Portland, which has been sending us one great chef after another. Ordering can be a challenge because the small menu (it changes often) features dishes like a phenomenal bruschetta loaded with creamy burrata and gorgeous tomatoes; a pork chop with buckwheat polenta, grilled figs, and cooked radicchio; and pastas such as fromage blanc ravioli with sweet corn and summer squash. It’s not very imaginative to describe food as “mouth watering” but, as I write this and think of those dishes, my mouth is watering. Sunday brunch, here we come!

Travel the world from a booth at THE BURGER KITCHEN (8048 W Third St; 323- 944-0503), where the menu features a Natural Burger made with Pat LaFrieda 40-day prime aged beef for $29. Owners Alan Saffron and son, Daniel, with wife Genevieve, have exclusive L.A. rights to the coveted meat patties (dry aged rib eye, skirt steak and brisket) from New York butcher Pat LaFrieda. Other massive show stoppers include From Siberia With Love (American Kobe beef, topped with caviar and salmon roe $75); Asbury Park (sausage burger); Ghandi’s gift (Indian curried beef); Japanese (Kobe beef); Caribbean (jerk chicken); Brandenburger (German); Burger the Greek (lamb); Bangkok Visitor (Thai chicken); Eiffel Tower; Summersetshire (salmon); and All But the Kitchen Sink (beef, lamb, turkey and salmon sliders). Start the day with a Lobster Benedict burger; English breakfast (bangers, baked beans, and eggs); Australian breakfast pie (eggs and bacon or spinach); and end it with a Chocolate Burger. Bargain alert: on Wednesdays, it’s $20 for a burger, fries, and a flight of four beers. Elevated from the mundane are items like the beer-battered onion rings sporting a crispy coating that stays intact while you munch the sweet, juicy insides, perfect sweet potato fries, a great steak, and an Australian meat pie that they’d die for in Sydney; as well as chocolate cookies and brownies, and a custom chocolate cake from Kiss My Bundt. A slew of craft beers by the glass or pitcher, and dozens of wines by the glass, will quench your thirst but only many return visits will quench your desires.

In the early 20th century the Petrossian brothers left their home on the Caspian Sea and emigrated to France to study medicine and law, a plan that was interrupted by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Switching gears, they introduced Russian caviar to France, an idea that took hold and ultimately led them to the United States, where their latest location is PETROSSIAN BOUTIQUE & RESTAURANT (321 N. Robertson Blvd WHwd; 310-271-0576). My own introduction to the pleasures of caviar happened when a uniformed server in the first class dining room of the SS Ile de France dipped a silverhandled mother-of-pearl serving spoon into a huge tin and deposited a delicate heap of black beluga pearls on my plate. Perhaps taking a cue from the Bolsheviks, Petrossian has come up with something truly revolutionary: CURBSIDE CAVIAR. Posh and puton is so yesterday. Chef Benjamin Bailly, a protégé of Joël Robuchon, does Frenchinspired California cuisine to go at affordable prices, including Caviar Surprise in a caviar tin —layers of caviar, king crab, crème fraîche and apple cider jelly ($32); caviar dip and sweet potato chips ($14); blinis with caviar, trout, and salmon roe; green bean salad with burrata, marcona almonds and transmontanus caviar ($18); and smoked salmon tartine with goat cheese, capers, and caviar ($16). They will send you out with a stylish cooler bag or pack your picnic basket for you. A patio wraps around the floor-to-ceiling windows of this now bright and airy space and overlooks the sidewalks of one of our most interesting walking streets. The menu is accessible, yet it’s unlike anything else in the city. Petrossian’s signature cold beet borscht and mushroom soup are the stuff of dreams, as is the Atlantic smoked salmon platter, and goose foie gras, but there’s also a Petrossian BLT; a smoked salmon club; a New York steak sandwich; and a grilled cheese sandwich. This is still a special restaurant but it’s not only for special occasions.

Food writers sense when a place has staying power. Put UPPER WEST (3321 Pico Blvd, SM; 310- 586-1111) on your calendar for whenever — it will still be there. Fred Elias, who’s been in the restaurant business for years, finally opened one of his own. Watching him meet ‘n’ greet, check the bar, the customers, and the kitchen, you wonder why he waited. He’s brought the epitome of a neighborhood restaurant to a neighborhood in sore need of one, which is clear from the local business leaders, UCLA grads, families and singles who have found common ground on the patio, in the open party room, and the main dining room. Everyone may not know each other but Elias appears to know them. And many of them know chef Nick Shipp, who was last at downtown’s Pete’s Cafe, who reinvents crowd-pleasing comfort foods with a twist (say yes to ahi tuna tacos; lamb crêpes with lavender demi-glace; braised short ribs and brioche bread pudding; meatloaf; a BLT with slabs of luscious bacon, green tomato, and corn-tomato aioli; and gelato or key lime tart for dessert). If you miss one of the best happy hours in town (daily 5- 7pm), with handcrafted cocktails (Ginger Cosmo, Espresso Martini, Honey Rye), half price drink specials, and bar food (Bar Burger, Nachos), remember that Upper West is open for lunch Monday thru Friday and dinner daily, until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, which is pretty much like one extended happy hour.

You wouldn’t guess to taste it but TALENTI GELATO E SORBETTO has 30–100% less fat than ice cream. It’s also 100% natural, 100% organic, kosher certified, and made with extra fine sugar, fresh fruit, nuts direct from the growers, Callebaut Belgian chocolate, Tahitian vanilla beans, Philippines coconut, and dulce de leche from Argentina. These are used in more than 15 flavors (plus 6 sorbettos) including Sicilian Pistachio, Double Dark Chocolate, Roman Raspberry, and Hill Country Peach Champagne. Buy it at Whole Foods, Ralph’s, Bristol Farms, Sprouts, Gelson’s and at www.talentigelato.com for just $4.99 – 5.99 per pint, packed in eco-friendly, recyclable and reusable translucent containers. More ice cream is on the way. Count down to September when blogger king, Matthew Kang (www.mattatouille.com), opens an extension of his pal Tai Kim’s mind-blowing gelato shop, SCOOPS, at 10640 Woodbine St. in Palms. He’s keeping prices low, décor minimal, service friendly, and flavors — sky’s the limit!

Follow the summer CAMARENA TACO TRUCK (www.tacotruck.tequilacamarena.com) for free Familia Camarena Tequilainfused gourmet tacos created by chef Sevan Azarian of Recess in Glendale. The tequila is made by hand from 100 percent blue agave in Jalisco, Mexico. July 9, from 6 – 9PM EAST LA MEETS NAPA at Union Station, 800 Alameda Street, Dntn.; 323-622-2405. AltaMed Health Services’ event features Latin cuisines from LA restaurants and wine from Latino Napa wineries. July 16 and 17 THE SAGEBRUSH CLASSIC (503-332-5000; www.sagebrush.org) in Bend, Oregon. After an 18-hole golf tournament, 18 world-class chefs will pair their best dishes with handcrafted beers from Deschutes Brewery, including ex-Los Angeleno, Ken Frank, now in Napa; Mark Kiffin of The Compound in Santa Fe; Jonathan Sundstrom, ex-Ritz Carlton Laguna Nigel; and Oregon chefs Gavin Mcmichael; Matt Neltner; Scott Neuman; and Vitaly Paley. July 29, 6-10PM. Before The AMERICAN WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL (Saturday, September 25 from 6-11pm on Universal Studios’ Back Lot) and the CHEF’S GRAND TASTING DINNER (Sunday, September 26 at 6pm at Spago Beverly Hills), there’s the first AN EVENING ON THE BEACH at Jonathan Beach Club, 850 Palisades Beach Rd, SM, to benefit Meals on Wheels. Tickets $125 at 310-574-3663. August 1, noon – 4PM WALLY’S CENTRAL COAST WINE AND FOOD CELEBRATION at Wally’s Wine & Spirits, 2107 Westwood Blvd, LA; 310-475-0606. Tickets $95 - $125. Over 60 Central Coast wineries, California micro-breweries, and great tastes from Caché; Osteria Mozza; Spago; CUT; Lucques; Comme Ça; Roku and much more. HAPPY SUMMER TO ALL!

 

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