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PARTY DOWN

BY ANDREA RADEMAN

L.A. is a party town serviced by people surviving on tips while they dream of future glory, just like the catering crew from PARTY DOWN (Henry/Adam Scott; Ron/Ken Marino; Casey/Lizzy Caplan; Kyle/Ryan Hansen; Roman/Martin Starr; and, new this season, stage mother Lydia/Megan Mullally). Bryan Gordon and Fred Savage take turns directing dark-edged episodes such as Jackal Onassis Backstage Party, Nick Dicintio's Orgy Night, and Steve Guttenberg's Birthday. Executive Producers/ Co-Creators John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd rely on smart dialogue and penetrating wit to serve up a smorgasbord of chuckles. Here’s a toast to “Party Down”!

Ricardo Zarate has reason to celebrate. When Los Angeles Magazine named L.A.’s ten Best New Restaurants (1-RIVERA; 2- BISTRO LQ; 3-DRAGO CENTRO; 4-MOCHICA; 5-BOUCHON; 6-TAVERN; 7-BOTTEGA LOUIE; 8-BARBRIX; 9-EVA; and 10- WESTSIDE TAVERN), they described them as “A food stall, a tony Beverly Hills outpost, a high-volume hot spot downtown … blowing us away with hand-torn pastas and the ultimate ceviche.” Anyone who reads Venice knows that the food stall they refer to is Mo- Chica (3655 S Grand Ave, Downtown; 213-747-2141), which opened just one year ago this month, and the ceviche is made by owner/chef Zarate, who also serves it at Wabi-Sabi in Venice. As Patrick Kuh aptly says in that article, “(Zarate) deploys the clarity of the Japanese aesthetic to capture the simmered soulfulness of traditional Peruvian food.” On a whirlwind visit, New Yorker Steven Plotnicki, the food-obsessed mastermind behind The Opinionated Diner Guide, was equally impressed, and wrote, “The biggest surprise of my meals was a restaurant that wasn’t even on the original schedule. But the writer, Andrea Rademan, was such a nudge about it that she eventually convinced me to try it. Well, I owe her a thousand thank-yous because Mo-Chica was terrific and the contemporary Peruvian cuisine served up by chef/owner Ricardo Zarate is inspirational … the best version of traditional Peruvian dishes that you have ever tasted… the Momofuku of Peruvian cuisine. Zarate is a guy to watch and he clearly deserves a bigger stage.” Stay tuned, folks.

Fans of film and food celebrate both at two of the year’s more important film festivals. First up, from April 19 to 25 is the French CITY OF LIGHTS CITY OF ANGELS (COLCOA) fest (www.colcoa.org). The fabulous French Chefs of the Club Culinaire cater the opening night party after a screening of Heartbreaker. Art house heartthrob Romain Duris is a professional Don Juan who has one week to stop a client’s beautiful and independent daughter (Vanessa Paradis) from marrying her seemingly perfect boyfriend. Next up, friends of Venice, CHAKRA CUISINE (www. chakracuisine. com), and Divya Wines (www.divyawines. com), specifically created to pair with Indian cuisine, are sponsors of the INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL LOS ANGELES (IFFLA), April 20 to 25 at Arclight Hollywood. The opening night film is a comedy, COOKING WITH STELLA, co-written by Deepa Mehta (WATER), about a scheming cook who uses her long-term post as the personal chef to the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to run an elaborate import business. We’ll drink to that!

Farther south, truffled goat mac & cheese is new on the menu at HUDSON HOUSE (514 N Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach; 310-798-9183), the South Bay’s only real gastropub. Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts, owner/chefs, celebrated their first year in business (they also helm the stoves at Beechwood in Venice) with new bites to complement their extensive list of craft beers and curated wines. Tender and succulent, the brown sugar pork ribs with crispy shallots and cilantro challenge the signature Hudson pretzel burger with grilled onion, bacon, Jarlsberg cheese and wild arugula for first place. For something equally fabulous but lighter, try the wheat beer steamed clams with lemon, Thai basil and garlic or the duo of grilled tilapia tacos garnished with pickled onion, sour cream salsa and cilantro. Cucumber and celery root slaw with sweet rice vinaigrette is a refreshing side for Dungeness crab deviled eggs. Standbys include ground lamb sugarcane skewers with paneer cheese, honey yogurt-harrisa sauce and marinated olives, beer battered cauliflower fritters with seasoned salt, and tartar sauce bacon-chive biscuits with spicy honey butter. Hudsonm House is across from the Redondo Beach pier, and serves dinner nightly until 1:30 a.m. On Tuesdays, gourmet street tacos go for a buck, along with $2 beers and $5 Mexico Mules. Cheers! In honor of its 10-year anniversary, Avalon Hotel, part of the Viceroy Hotel Group, welcomed a new Executive Chef, Mirko Paderno, and a new restaurant, OLIVERIO (9400 W Olympic Blvd, Beverly Hills; 310-277- 5221). You may have enjoyed Paderno’s scrupulously fresh, unfussy dishes, at Primi and Valentino, Drago, Dolce, All’Angelo and, most recently, Cecconi’s, where his food was always a standout. Now that he’s settled in here he’s doing what he calls “Italian food with a regional flair.” I think he means this region because he’s using meats from California and seasonal ingredients from even closer — the hotel’s rooftop garden. But he’s also fond of Italian cheeses, crudo, and handmade pasta served precisely al dente like his cannelloni stuffed with escarole-studded baked ricotta and sided with sautéed vegetables. The signature starters are cauliflower soufflé with Parmigiano sauce, and caprese buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and basil, but eat them and you’ll likely have to forego a pizzetta, even with its light potato flour crust. Piedmont rib-eye steak, chicken diavola, and saffron risotto with panseared bone marrow beckoned but the wild Scottish salmon with eggplant and zucchini, and the merluzzo (cod), pan roasted with chickpea puree and asparagus proved irresistible. Paderno had other ideas. Having sent the cod back to the supplier because it didn’t meet his standards he asked to substitute branzino (seabass), which was an easy compromise. We ended with a lemon polenta pudding cake with lemon sabayon and unusually appealing chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven. There’s a one-page Italianfocused wine menu, a tasting menu, a full bar menu, and a young Hollywood crowd enjoying it all around the Kelly Wearstlerdesigned mid-century moderne cabanalined pool. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 – 9 you can join them for a happy hour with Italian inspired bites and specialty cocktails. Salute!

Congratulations to Evan Kleiman, who just celebrated the 25th anniversary of ANGELLI CAFFE! At her annual family-style “Passover” dinner, the clever cook saluted both European and Eastern Culinary Traditions with dishes such as hummus; leek croquettes; Moroccan fish croquettes; Evan’s pot roast; pollo arrosto; tortino di azzime; quinoa “salad” with spring veg; fattoush; and almond berry cream cake. She was inspired by “the similarity of all springtime festivals — Passover, Easter, Persian Noruz, and others, which embrace the reawakening of the natural world after a long winter.” ROSA MEXICANO (LA Live, 800 W. Olympic Blvd, Dntn; 213-746-0001) served up a Mexican seder that included tropical haroset; creamy chicken and guajillo chile soup; huachinango gefilte fish; banana leaf wrapped beef brisket; salmon con salpicon de remolachas; and Mexican macaroon ice cream sandwiches. OAKFIRE PIZZERIA & PUB offered a matzoh crust on any of its 27 Wood Fired pies, courtesy of a recipe from Operating Partner, Jeremy Findel’s Great Aunt in Israel. If you’ve worked up an appetite, satisfy it with SEX, DRUGS & GEFILTE FISH: The Heeb Storytelling Collection edited by Shana Liebman (Trade Paperback Original; $13.99), the first book from Heeb magazine — “the definitive voice of a proud, searching, and irreverent new generation of American Jews brings together humorous, self-reflective tales about angst-ridden experiences from some of our generation’s leading writers, comedians, actors, artists, and musicians.” Among the essays on sex, drugs, work, youth, family, body, and soul, Andy Borowitz conveys the irony of a Jewish Harvard graduate (himself) writing a hip-hop sitcom for Will Smith: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

When Chuck (brother of author Ken Kesey) and Sue Kesey started Springfield Creamery 50 years ago, they never dreamed they would revolutionize the cultured dairy industry with their probiotic yogurt. Working with yogurt maven, Nancy Van Brasch Hamren, they created the first U.S. yogurt made with L. acidophilus culture... NANCY’S YOGURT. In those days, only scientists had even heard of probiotics. Today people can’t get enough of their health-enhancing qualities and all of the dairy’s 75 products teem with billions of live probiotics. A far cry from the days when musician Huey Lewis shipped Nancy’s in a U-Haul, the dairy now delivers their delicious, fully cultured natural and organic yogurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, kefir and sour cream yogurt to all 50 states and throughout Canada. Now, that’s something to celebrate. If, between now and April 12, you see a retrofitted 1966 Standard VW van that looks like a Baby Loaf of cheddar on wheels, it’s probably part of TILLAMOOK’s Loaf Love Tour. Folks from the century-old Oregon company are touring the West with their all-natural cheddars, made with milk from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormone. Spot them at farmers markets, grocery stores and special events, where you can score cheese samples, recipe cards, buttons and information. Full schedule: LoafLoveTour.com. They enlisted chef/owner Akasha Richmond prepared a “cheesy” tasting at AKASHA RESTAURANT BAR AND BAKERY (9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City; 310- 845-1700). Menu: bare naked cheese bits with a variety of housemade chutneys and preserves, including fig and kumquat; mini grilled cheese and roast turkey sandwiches with onion marmalade on the side; cheddar biscuits with pulled pork; baby potato skins with sharp cheddar, bacon, crème fraiche and guacamole; buttermilk fried chicken salad with cheddar croutons; and macaroni and cheese. Beverages were craft beers, housemade lemonade and organic sodas. I’ll drink to that!

Allison Hooper, founder of Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery and a pioneer in the food world, has released her first book, IN A CHEESEMAKERS KITCHEN (Countryman press, 19.95). It’s a mix of history, easy recipes, insights and advice on how to serve and pair cheese, with personal “cheesy” vignettes by famous chefs.

CINNABON is celebrating 25 years with a new addition – cupcakes, and Los Angeles is one of the first cities to offer them. Of the four flavors introduced, Cinnacake Classic, a Cinnabon in cupcake form, gets our vote. The original Cinnabon creator helped test hundreds of recipes, and a secret ingredient, to come up with this cake version of the original Cinnabon, icing and all. Chocolate Passion, Vanilla Bliss, and 24-Carrot Cake are almost as tempting if less unique.

Susan Feniger invited everyone to celebrate the season premiere of Bravo's TOP CHEF MASTERS with a viewing party at STREET™ (742 N. Highland Ave., Midcity; 323-203-0500) on April 7. The purpose is for people to enjoy Street Bites and specialty cocktails while watching the dynamic chef compete on Top Chef Masters to raise money for her favorite charity, the Scleroderma Research Foundation. From the more than fair $25 price, 50% of proceeds benefits the charity. If you don’t make it to the party you can donate at www.srfcure.org. ▼

 

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