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Nov 26, 2008 12:17 PM

retired cook in town for xmas-new year's--events?

Hey there, I haven't lived in the area for 2 years, been out in Los Angeles. I'll be visiting from xmas to new year's. I was a chef (mainly pastry) for many many years (Trotter's, Sweet Mandy B's, Angelfood Bakery, Zealous, the list goes and goes), and I'm looking for some action! What have I missed! The openings, the closings, the tears, the emotional abuse, the throwing down of the apron before the indignant walkout, the wild accusatins, the vicious gossip! Not to mention the fiduciary irresponsibilities!

I want to delve into the food world not as a slave cook for this week and a half, but on the other side of the heat lamp. My mop in in retirement, and my knife callous has healed--tear--

Can anyone recommend some great finds for someone like myself during the week after Xmas? Restaurants, bakeries, drunken orgies at restaurants or bakeries :.), bars...Any New Year's events?

Thanks a lot!!

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  1. There are always openings and closings, chefs moving around, etc. In two years, some things change. At the top of the top, I think Alinea opened right around the time you left; I'm sure you're familiar with it and with Chef Achatz, formerly of Trio and other places. They will be closed around the holidays. Avenues, continuing its outstanding reputation under new Executive Chef Curtis Duffy, usually does a spectacular dinner on NYE. Avenues's previous Chef Graham Elliott Bowles now has his own, more casual restaurant, Graham Elliott. The only real high-end newcomer since your departure is L2O, the new seafood-focused restaurant from Laurent Gras and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. The other high-end places continue to excel: Everest under Jean Joho, Charlie Trotter's, NoMI under Christophe David (I've heard they may be closing temporarily for renovations), and TRU with some involvement of Rick Tramonto.

    In terms of casual fine dining, there are some old places and newcomers. Bruce Sherman is at the helm of the always-fine North Pond. Carrie Nahabedian gets plaudits at Naha. one sixtyblue has transitioned to new chef Michael McDonald while previous Chef Martial Noguier has moved over to the Sofitel and Cafe des Architectes. Aigre Doux opened around the time you left and is wonderful, with husband Mohammed Islam and wife Malika Ameen handling the savory and sweet, respectively. Paul Kahan continues at Blackbird, and Michael Kornick at MK. For the more offbeat temples of molecular gastronomy, Homaro Cantu at Moto and the mercurial Michael Carlson at Schwa.

    There are many, many more places around the city and suburbs. My favorite of all right now is Michael in Winnetka, run by Michael Lachowicz, formerly of Le Francais, and a close second is Tallgrass in Lockport, which continues under the fine ownership of Robert Burcenski in its 28th year.

    There will be one or more huge articles about what's going on for New Year's Eve some time in December in the Tribune. You will be able to find it, as well as searching for listings of events for NYE, on their Metromix entertainment website at

    We could still use a great pastry shop. There are numerous places around the city and suburbs where you can get 2-3 great items, but there's no place where you can find a huge variety as well as top quality, IMHO. About the closest you can come (for both quality and variety) are Fox & Obel and Vanille Patisserie, both of which are top quality, but don't walk in expecting to see a dozen wonderful pastries you've never seen anywhere else (an experience I enjoyed recently at a wonderful pastry shop in Portland Oregon called Pix Patisserie). One place that has opened since you left is Pasticceria Natalina, which specializes in Sicilian pastries and whose products are excellent; it's a couple blocks north of Swedish Bakery in Andersonville, and it's worth checking out!

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Wow! Thanks nsxtasy for all the info.

      I had heard that Schwa had closed, is it reopened in the same locale on Ashland?

      I can't wait to see the pastry shops, my buddies at Angelfood Bakery and Bleeding Heart are still hanging in there. Can't wait to see Chaos Theory Cakes also.

      I assume Trotter's to Go is still functional?

      1. re: creamydeluxe

        Yes, last year Chef Carlson closed Schwa (without warning, stranding customers who had previously made reservations) and it was closed for 3-4 months, IIRC. He re-opened in the same location. Good luck making reservations; as you are probably aware, not only is it small, but they don't have any "front of the house" personnel to handle that part of the business.

        Yes, Trotter's To Go is still around. I walked by their Loop store last month.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          i actually thought i was going to schwa for nye, had a reservation and everything. just received a phone call from them though, and they are not going to be open for nye.

    2. This may not be a chow topic, but how about new bars? I like eclectic. Always dug the Hopleaf, Club foot, California Clipper...Big Chicks!