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Caulfield's in the Thompson Hotel - Beverly Hills

*Post by Angela.

I surely do love a good hotel bar. I really do. You always meet the most interesting people there, people moving through the city for business, for pleasure, from all walks of life and from all over the country and all corners of the globe. And travelers are often eager to make conversation next to whomever they're seated. It's a good time.

But generally, the allure of a hotel bar is more about the cameraderie and people than the drinks or food. Caulfield's Bar & Dining Room at the Thompson Hotel doubles down by offering dishes and a bar program good enough to entice even those not staying upstairs.



The first step inside Caulfield's makes it clear that this is no ordinary hotel bar. The interior melds old and new, transposing Art Deco themes into a slick, modern setting. It's equally easy to imagine Dick Tracy siddling up to the bar as it is to picture Bruce Wayne sipping a scotch. Past and present, and both cool as hell.



And Caulfield's offers a stellar bar program to match the stylish decor. Crafted under the supervision of manager Jeremy Back, the cocktails are creative, fun and most importantly, delicious. Take for instance, the Rye-ality (below, left), a spicy sipper composed of Templeton Rye, grapefruit, serrano pepper, cayenne preserves and yuzu Miracle Mile bitters. Another playful drink is the Bar & Dining Room (below, center), a drink that emulates something you'd be more likely to eat by combining Maestro Dobel, fig shrub, cracked black pepper foam served in a glass laced with proscuitto dust. It's like a liquid proscuitto-wrapped date and it's surprisingly drinkable. Also fun is the Bar-zillian (below, right), an enticing mix of Leblon Cachacha, lime and hrapefruit juices, egg whites and Forbidden bitters.



To complete the trifecta, the food would need to be top notch. So Caulfield's stacks the odds with chef Stephen Kalt, who has cooked under Daniel Boulud at the legendary Le Cirque and is a veteran of elevating hotel food (Corsa Cucina at The Wynn Las Vegas and Fornelletto at Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel and Casino). Kalt's food is both artful and tasty, and way better than our prior experiences with hotel bar cuisine.

It would be a mistake for anyone not to begin his or her meal with a selection of charcuterie (the options include pate Campagna, duck rillette, chicken liver pate, salametto, capicola, duck ham, bresaiola, and serrano ham). The terrines and pates are made in house and are outstanding, the artisan salumi is equally good, and the accompanying mustards, fruit pasts and jams are great.



Next, buttery slices of Pacific fluke crudo are garnished beautifully with pear, radish, coconut milk, finger lime and ginger. It's a nice balance of creamy and acidic, and it's light enough that it doesn't overpower the fluke.



Similarly, the big eye tuna confit lets the fish shine while pairing it with an interesting combination of  tomato, haricot verts, olives, new potato, white anchovy, egg and sherry vinegar.



For our second round of drinks, we knocked back more cocktails like the Lipstick (below, left) where St. George Botanivore gin cozies up with fresh beet and lemon juices, and some Bitter Truth Habanero shrub. It gets it name for the big lipsmack on the side of the glass - the product of beet juice rather than an unwashed glass. Then there's the Kentucky Kiwi (below, center) which mellows out Pure Kentucky XO whiskey with a kiwi shrub and Bitter Truth Boston Bitters. The O.K. Corral (below, right) serves up gin two ways. The first is served martini-style like a bijou with Oxley, Antica sweet vermouth and a sprits of green Chartreuse. The second way is a barrel aged treat that Back calls the Hanky Panky and for good reason: it's exactly what it's all about. 



The Little Angel pasta is both enthusiastically recommended by our server and well-received by us. Tiny  pockets of fresh pasta are filled with a delicate combination of artichoke, arugula, and peas, finished with butter, poppy seeds and nutty Montasio cheese.



Heartier and bolder is a crock of juicy and flavorful meatballs of ground lamb, bulghur, Moroccan lemon and savory tomato. It's the ideal dish for a cold night, and goes a long way in filling the space in our stomachs left by the earlier dishes.



For variety, we opt for a grilled pizzette, a satisfyingly charred flatbread topped with creamy burrata and a bright basil pesto.



Our final dish of the night features plump slices of roasted duck breast and leg confit, drizzled with a rich reduction and served with gaviota strawberries, padron peppers, potato pearls, and cipoline onions.



It would be an understatement to say that the food and drinks at Caulfield's are better than they need to be. They are legitimately good enough to stand alone and apart from the hotel, and good enough that we'll definitely be back in the future. Because I do love a good hotel bar, and Caulfield's is definitely that.

*Disclosure: this was a hosted meal. 

Caulfield's Bar & Dining Room at the Thompson Hotel
9360 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 388-6860

Hours: Seven days a week: 7:00a-11:00p

Caulfield's on Urbanspoon


The Tripel is a Home Run in Playa Del Rey

*Post by Angela.

Separately, chef couple Nick Roberts and Brooke Williamson are pretty darned impressive. Roberts has worked in the kitchens of famed Union Pacific, Ducasse, and Café Boulud, while Williamson holds the honor of being the youngest chef to ever cook at the James Beard House and is currently cooking up a storm on this season of Top Chef: Seattle. It's like the two were made to be together, like...well, like great beer and fine food, which Roberts and Williamson are pairing at Redondo Beach's Hudson House and Playa Del Rey's The Tripel.

We've yet to visit Hudson House, but after a really fun trip to the Tripel a couple of weeks ago, we're putting it high up on our list. First of all, The Tripel is perfectly suited to its location - it's tiny, cozy, and laid back, just like the old beach town Playa Del Rey.



LUBRICATION the board screams at you when you walk into the Tripel. In this case, it's referring to the 'Social Lubrication' that flows out of its 12 taps - a stellar mix of Belgians and local craft brews (below, left). Along with the excellent tap list, the Tripel also offers beer cocktails like the Sour Grapes (below, right) which deftly blends sour beer with Luxardo maraschino liqueur.



And what to pair with all these lovely concoctions? How about a parade of creative small plates?

To start, a hint of coconut and red curry bring unexpected warmth to dense, crumbly biscuits (below), which are made even tastier with dollops of luscious clotted cream and orange blossom honey.



The chicken sausage stuffed dates (below) balance the sugary dried fruit perfectly against the savory elements: the well-seasoned meat stuffing, piquillo pepper, and cilantro. A really nice alternative to the ubiquitous bacon-wrapped version.



Baby octopus (below), a favorite of mine, gets a nice char, retaining a bit of bite, which is a good textural contrast to the creamy, inky coconut rice and saffron-tinged sauce.



The duck egg Florentine (below) is an interesting combination of creamed spinach, perfectly poached egg and crunchy triangles of smoked trout toast. While we might like the individual elements more than the dish as a whole, the composed dish is a good example of Roberts and Williamson's willingness to think outside the box.



Yeah, I know you don't know what chicken waterzooi (below) is. Neither did we. Order it anyway. It's a Belgian dish, and it's fantastic: a bright, hearty stew of heirloom carrots, leeks, kale, fenugreek, and gremolata, with big chunks of succulent, tender chicken, and an insanely crispy potato latka for texture.



Even the more traditional dishes get a fancy fun spin. The Tripel burger is a disco party of flavors: duck confit, pork, and aged beef, truffle pecorino, arugula, and housemade apricot jam on an onion brioche bun. It's definitely not for the faint of heart, but it's not overwhelming, either - the richness plays really well with the sweetness of the jam. It's been a long time since we've had a burger this good in LA. 



For dessert, we enjoyed a fresh baked chocolate-cherry cookie (below, right) with black tea ice cream alongside our espresso. An nice, warm, ooey-gooey finish to a fine meal.



Good food and good drink really are the perfect combination. There's no doubt you'll find us getting lubricated in Playa Del Rey again very soon. In the meantime, we'll be cheering on Chef Brooke every Wednesday on Top Chef: Seattle



*Disclosure: This was a hosted meal.

The Tripel - Playa Del Rey
333 Culver Boulevard
Playa Del Rey, CA 90293
(310) 821-0333

Twitter: @TheTripelLA
HoursMon-Thurs: 5:00p - close, Fri: 12:00p - close, Sat-Sun: 10:30a - close

The Tripel on Urbanspoon


New Market Menu comes to UMAMIcatessen

*Post by Mark.

It wasn't long ago that Adam Fleischman's UMAMIcatessen opened in downtown, expanding the popular burger empire into a multi-headed beast of a delicatessen/burger-stand/bar/donut/coffee shop. When the 170-seat, table-service dining hall first opened, we scarfed down delicious shrimp burgers, brainaise-covered fries, donuts stuffed with foie gras (not anymore, thanks foie gras ban!) along with pigs ears and cured Spanish meats thanks to San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino's involvement. 

It's been nearly a year, and UMAMIcatessen continues to evolve. Recently, we were invited in to try a number of new dishes to counter the otherwise rich, meat-heavy menu. The pork, burgers and donuts haven't gone anywhere, but now there seems to be a nice happy balance.

First, it'd be negligent of us not to mention that The Back Bar at UMAMIcatessen is worth checking out in and of itself. The bar boasts a really solid beer list, a fun cocktail list - including the Bourbon Pig with bacon-washed bourbon, sugar, bitters and crispy pig ear (below, center) and the Black Jack with Jack Daniels honey, apricot liqueur, orgeat, lemon and blackberries (below, right) - and a substantial wine list. In other words, they've got your alcohol needs covered.



But the real news is the addition of the newly launched Market Menu, featuring seasonal small plates that provide meat-eaters a little ruffage to go with their protein, and give vegetarians/pescatarians a much wider selection from which to choose.

Smoked sturgeon potato salad with fingerling potatoes, celery, and truffled creme fraiche ($5, below, left) features chunks of fish so smoky and meaty, you could almost believe it was bacon, as well as a luscious dressing. The macaroni salad ($5, below, right) is the lightest version of the dish you could hope for, with carrot, cabbage, and slivers of scallions providing heft and crunch, pickled shiitakes adding a litte tartness, and a creamy but not-at-all heavy Japanese dressing pulling it all together.



Both the colorful salad of black quinoa, chickpeas, bell pepper, tomato, and cucumber with a citrus vinaigrette ($5, below, top left) and the cilantro ginger slaw ($3, below, top right) with green and red cabbage, Asian pear, mint, and pickled chiles tossed in a traditional gingery Japanese dressing, are bright, light and refreshingly crunchy. Most interesting of the new plates is a dish of crispy Brussels sprouts leaves tossed with a generous helping of honey mustard dressing and parmesan ($4, below, bottom center) - basically sprouts with a fast-food style makeover, and I mean that in a good way.



Slightly more basic, but no less tasty are the earthy, sweet multi-colored roasted beets, served with dollops of light-as-air dill creme fraiche ($4, below).



The caramelized squash ($5, below) is also really simple, but truly outstanding: cumin yogurt, lime and smoked paprika work beautifully against the slight sweetness of the squash.



The last of the small plates, the roasted baby carrots ($4, below, top center) get an elegant dressing up with a subtle honey glaze, torn mint leaves and a smear of dark, spicy harissa.

UMAMIcatessen is also keeping its core list of salads, which are pretty straightforward, but well-executed and more substantial than the small plates: the Greek salad ($12, below, bottom left) is a combo of marinated sous vide chicken, pickled peppers, cucumbers, olives, cherry tomatoes and feta vinaigrette; the chopped salad ($12, below, bottom right) is a mélange of albacore, radicchio, endive, butter lettuce, chickpeas, red onions, and gribiche (coarse vinaigrette, with chopped cornichons and capers and hard-boiled eggs) dressing.



You may feel the need to scarf something more indulgent after all those greens, and obviously, UMAMIcatessen has got you covered. A rich clam chowder (not currently on the menu, but likely to make an appearance in the future) with thick, gilstening slices of pork belly wipes out all the good points earned from the salads, but it's delicious enough to be worth it. 



Even more intensely meaty is the P!GG Breakfast sandwich ($11, below, left), a housemade English muffin jam-packed with sausage, pig-ear bacon, cheddar cheese, hot sauce, and a maple-poached egg. You can almost feel the heart attack coming over you as the perfectly runny yolk dribbles down your chin, but the sandwich is just too good to stop. And if you want to sate your meat cravings with beef instead, the pastrami from The Cure (below, right) has got you covered.



With all the good stuff going on at Umami Burger, The Cure, P!GG, and the bar, it would be easy to forget to save room for dessert. That would be a mistake, as UMAMIcatessen's very own donut shop in the corner makes a mean whisky bread pudding donut ($5, below) topped withdried fruit and zested orange cream cheese.



So yeah, carnivores and lovers of the decadent, UMAMIcatessen is still your jam. But now you don't have to leave your vegetarian family member/friend/significant other at home when you visit. Bring 'em along - you can all get stuffed at UMAMIcatessen together. 

UMAMIcatessen - Downtown LA
852 S. Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213-413-UMAMI (8626)
Twitter: @umamiburger

Hours: Sunday-Thursday,11:30a-11:00p, Friday-Saturday, 11:30a-12:00a

UMAMIcatessen on Urbanspoon


New Bites and New Cocktails at Mohawk Bend + NITRO DREAMS

Post by Angela.

Generally, I am a pretty unrepentant omnivore. I love meat without shame or apology, and in the past, I may or may not have stabbed a man for the last piece of pork belly on a plate. But recently, when Los Angeles became the largest city in the country to officially endorse Meatless Mondays (a movement encouraging people to cut meat out of their diets at least one day a week), I surprised myself at how supportive I was of the City Council's resolution. These feelings are in large part due to a recent visit to Mohawk Bend to sample the new seasonal food and drink items.

First, let's talk about the cocktails. Normally, when we go to Mohawk Bend, we get awfully tunnel-visioned about the rows of amazing beers on tap. But the new seasonal cocktails are definitely worth checking out. If I could, I would swap out the typical Thanksgiving candied yams for My Yummy Yammy, with Crusoe Organic Silver rum, yam puree, and brown sugar (below left, $12) every year. It's lighter than you would expect from something made with puree, and the toasted marshmellow that tops the concoction is a perfect finishing touch. The  Drunkin’ Punkin’, with Tru Organic Vanilla vodka, FruitLab Orange liqueur, grenadine, and house made pumpkin pie foam (below center, $12, not vegan) is intensely pumpkin-y but not sickly sweet. And for those with a taste for more herby cocktails, the Thyme Bomb, with #209 gin, thyme, lemon juice, apple cider (below right, $11) is right up your alley.



Now, we've tried and liked Chef Mike Garber's food before at brunch. But this time, we put his vegan cheffing to the test, making our meal entirely out of the myriad meat-free items on the menu. And Garbs hit it out of the park.

It's almost a no-brainer that the salads were fantastic. The endive salad, with kale, pickled Asian pears, red quinoa, pomegranate, candied pecans, and a persimmon vinaigrette (below, $11) is a lovely little plate of autumn, sweet and crunchy.



The beet salad (below, $10) is great as well, hitting you with both roasted and pickled versions of the beloved root veggie scattered across a bed of arugula lightly drizzled with pickled beet vinaigrette. Slivers of apple and hazelnuts add a nice textural contrast, and a smear of earthy, creamy sunchoke puree ties the whole thing together.



The buffalo-style cauliflower with "blue cheese" dressing is Mohawk Bend's most popular item for a very, very good reason. I am not exaggerating when I say I prefer this completely vegan version to the chicken original. Chef Garber's dish hits all the notes of the classic football food - the cauliflower is as meaty as you could imagine a vegetable could be, with a nice, crisp exterior, and the sauce is tangy with just a little bit of heat - without any of the grease and heaviness of fried chicken.



Less mind-blowing, but very solid are the fingerling potatoes with a bright, herby Spanish salsa verde (below left, $7). You can add bleu cheese and bacon to the Brussels sprouts if you want, but for us, the vegan version with apples and almonds (below right, $8) was plenty flavorful.



I was honestly surprised at how much I liked the jerk pizza (below) - the riot of ingredients (sweet potatoes, roasted peppers, pineapple, black beans, and fried plantains) seems like it won't work. But the chaotic combination tastes delicious, especially with Garber's jerk sauce bringing both substantial heat and flavor to the party. 



Even better, in my opinion, is the asparagus and potato pizza (below, in mini size, $8). It throws together some of my all-time favorite ingredients - asparagus, roasted garlic, and leeks - adds slices of crispy potato and caramelized onion, and tops it off with a sprinkling of nutty-tasting nutritional yeast. If this item ever falls off the menu, I will cry and stalk the appropriate parties until it is put back on.



And nowadays, on Thursday nights you can get a little show in addition to your dinner. Starting November 1, Mohawk Bend plays host to Ben Fernebok of NITRO DREAMS. Fernebok throws a bit of flair in as he makes tableside ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Less than 5 minutes after parking his cart at our table, he was placing bowls of wonderfully creamy mango (vegan) and caramel almond (not vegan) ice cream before us. And Fernebok and his cart of mystical goodness are available for catering gigs as well.



Listen, I'm never going to give up meat completely. It's delicious and I love it and you can't make me. BUT I personally see a lot of (environmental & health) benefits to cutting back on my animal consumption. Our Mohawk Bend visit inspired me, and for the last couple of weeks Mark and I have made a conscious effort to significantly cut back on our meat-eating - almost all of our home meals have been vegetarian/pescetarian, and even our meals out have been virtually meat-free.

So yeah, Los Angeles City Council, I'm on board with Meatless Mondays. Especially if I can spend them eating food as good as the vegetarian/vegan fare they're slinging at Mohawk Bend. 

Mohawk Bend - Echo Park
2141 West Sunset Boulevard  
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 483-2337
Twitter: @mohawkla

Hours: Monday-Friday, noon to 2:00a, Saturday, 9:30a-2:00a, Sunday, 9:30a-1:00a


Blasted Chicken and Cilantro-Chile Sauce

*Post by Angela.

Until recently, whole roasted chicken was strictly a weekend meal. That’s because, while I’ve made some really good recipes, I always feel like they’re so fussy. Too much work for after work. And then I discovered this recipe for blasted chicken (for which I was inspired to look after the great half-blasted chicken at Mas Malo). It’s amazing – it takes about 5 minutes of prep, a little over an hour of roasting and the chicken always turns out juicy and flavorful, with crispy skin. I’ve made it probably 4 times in the last 2 months, which is practically unheard of (I don’t usually repeat recipes too often).

And while I’ve made a variety of sauces to go with the meat, this cilantro-chili pepper sauce is probably my favorite. It’s salty, tangy, and sweet, and tastes better the longer it sits. Which means fantastic leftovers. Which means happy Angela.



Ingredients for the chicken:
  • 1 3-4 lb chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3-4 tbsp melted butter
  • Lots of salt and pepper
  • A standing chicken roaster or an empty tall boy (24 oz can of beer)

If this takes you more than 5 minutes, you’ve probably got an arm or a leg or both trapped under a heavy piece of furniture. If that’s true, you should probably not be making things in the oven or on the stove. Or doing anything that could potentially result in fire.

Since I was not trapped or otherwise encumbered, it took me less than 5 minutes. I removed one of the racks from the oven, leaving only one in the lowest slot, and preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I rubbed the melted butter all over the chicken, making sure to get some under the skin and inside the cavity, then I generously sprinkled salt and pepper all over. I fitted the chicken on the beer can, then put it in the oven to roast (about 15-20 minutes per pound).



Once the skin was nice and brown all over, and the internal temperature of the meat was about 160, I removed the chicken from the oven, tented it with foil and let it sit for about 10 minutes before carving.



Ingredients for the cilantro-chili pepper sauce:
  • 3 bell peppers (whichever color you have)
  • 2 serrano peppers (or habaneros, if you’re feelin’ nasty)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • ½ cup malt vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped

While the chicken was blasting, I seeded and destemmed the peppers, charred the skin of each over a burner on the stove and let them rest in a covered bowl for about 10 minutes. This makes it easy to remove the blackened skin. After deskinning them, I gave the peppers a good rough chop.



I heated the sesame oil in a pan over medium heat and cooked the garlic for just about a minute before throwing in the peppers and a pinch of salt to cook for another minute. I poured in the vinegar, brown sugar and fish sauce, brought the mixture to a boil, then turned the heat down to let it simmer for about 10 minutes.



I poured it all into a blender with the soy sauce, lime juice, cilantro and green onion and blended it until it was smooth.



Perfectly roasted chicken and a great sauce (served with rice and these Brussels sprouts). Not just for weekends anymore.