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1/24/14 Dining Report; Day 1 of 3 in So. Cal (Donut Friend, Scoops, DK's Donuts, Rustic Canyon)

uhockey Jan 30, 2014 06:39 AM

Now a 4 hour drive from home a great weekend of dining took place in Los Angeles / Santa Monica when I visited for the dreadful "Stadium Series" Game at Dodger's Stadium. 17 spots over the course of ~66 hours. Full text below, pictures in the blog.

  1. uhockey Jan 30, 2014 06:40 AM

    Rustic Canyon: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16024

    One of Los Angeles’ most celebrated restaurants in recent years despite an ever changing parade in the kitchen, Josh Loeb’s Rustic Canyon had long been on my culinary radar but it was not until nomad Chef Jeremy Fox took over that the Santa Monica staple of local-artisanal cuisine became a personal destination – a bit of regret for missing his tenure at Ubuntu still lingering but high hopes that Southern California’s bounty could rekindle the magic of his Michelin starred Napa cuisine. A high ceilinged space heavy with wood and white, dim lighting and closely set tables it was just after 9:00pm when myself and two friends sat down for dinner and with only one item sold out for the night our ordering strategy proved simple, a few selections from each section of the tapas-style menu plus one large course, cheese, and desserts – the subsequent 135 minutes comprised of a dozen plates of immaculate food impressive in not only in its imagination, but also in its simplicity. Never the sort to employ tricks, foams, or culinary gadgetry but instead focused on pairing impeccable ingredients to coax the maximum of texture and flavor out of each item it really stood as no surprise that the meal began with sweet almonds giving way to gentle floral notes and subsequently proving a deft hand balancing hefty proteins like head cheese and trotters with vegetals and citrus the courses only grew stronger as the night moved on. Clearly having spent time refining his pasta it was after salads that heavier courses arrived and while ricotta gnocchi proved delicate and impressive it was in the Chiatarra that I found my bliss, a plate of hand cut black pasta thick with brandade rendered to sauce, a bit of sweetened peas and nutmeg offering balance to the salinity of a plate I’ve no doubt will be one of this year’s ten best. Showing impressive skills with both proteins and vegetables as a main course of crispy roasted chicken plus accompanying sweet spaetzle shined and progressing right into an interesting cheese plate with top quality bread plus delicious, albeit simple desserts it should simply be said that a night at Rustic Canyon is something everyone in Los Angeles should experience and as long as Chef Fox is at the helm the restaurant will pose a strong temptation for me to make the four-hour drive from Sin City, particularly as spring and summer flavors bloom.

    2 Replies
    1. re: uhockey
      Ciao Bob Jan 30, 2014 08:44 AM

      OK, my mouth is watering. Thanks.

      1. re: Ciao Bob
        uhockey Jan 30, 2014 05:21 PM

        Truly an outstanding meal from beginning to end.

    2. uhockey Jan 30, 2014 06:45 AM

      DK's Donuts: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16020

      Arriving in Santa Monica nearly two hours prior to dinner reservations with friends it was once more to So.Cal’s signature sweet that I turned, a long planned visit to DK’s Donuts & Bakery yielding some of the most impressive and affordable deep-fried pastries I’ve experienced to date. A small shop with an enormous selection of classics, fancies, and recently minted “O-Nuts” plus a variety of Asian influenced flavors it was to a short line and consistent flow of traffic that I arrived and watching a number of options emerge hot from the kitchen my order wrote itself, a half dozen +2 tallying a mere $14.60 and every option good with four, all warm from the fryer, warranting special mention. Beginning first with the simplest, suffice it to say that the old fashioned was light on oil and high on glaze lending perfect balance to soft sour cream and moving next to the cruller, crispy outside with a wispy custard center, it almost seemed things couldn’t get better…a misconception soon set straight by the crisp, laminated Taro O-Nut – a subtly sweet upgrade on Ansel’s invention in nearly all ways (at half the price) – and finally by the best Buttermilk Bar I’ve experienced to date, the warmth clearly playing a large part in the experience as a delicate crumb literally melted on the tongue with sharp tangy tones poking through sweet glaze; at 95 cents a strong contender for the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever eaten for less than a buck.

      3 Replies
      1. re: uhockey
        k
        kevin Jan 30, 2014 03:44 PM

        I thought the DK's donut on Santa Monica, near 17th Street were terrible.

        And they committed highway robbery on the prices they charge for their version of Cronut's at 5 bucks a pop.

        Does Ansel's sell their cronuts at 10 dollars a pop then or did DK's just reduce the price of their cronuts to 2.50 dollars a pop since the donut craze has died down. ??????

        1. re: kevin
          uhockey Jan 30, 2014 05:21 PM

          They were $2.50, and I liked every donut to come out of their kitchen. YMMV, obviously, but getting them fresh is where its at.

          1. re: uhockey
            k
            kevin Jan 30, 2014 05:24 PM

            wow, then they did cut their version of the Cronuts in half from $5 to $2.50.

            It was $5 if not more just a few months ago. In Oct or Nov of 2013.

            Try Frances Bakery for their Cronuts and let me know what you think.

      2. uhockey Jan 30, 2014 06:45 AM

        Scoops: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16016

        One of many in the ever-growing small-batch artisan ice cream movement it was largely a matter of location that led me to Scoops, the latest in a slowly growing chain located directly next to Donut Friend. Nearly indistinguishable as an eatery given the small storefront and lack of signage it was to a single clerk with no other patrons that I entered the store and clearly happy for the business/company of an interested patron a long conversation and tasting ensued, my eventual order two substantial scoops for a mere $3 plus a $1 tip. Featuring a rich, creamy base and up front flavors with a smooth finish in each and every sample it was on a classic “American” combination that I eventually settled and with malt tones balancing cookie sweetness I particularly enjoyed the clever take on cookies and cream throughout while the latter unfortunately became slightly cloying past a few bites – the brown bread’s toasty rye tones likely representing a better option for those seeking something more subtle or unique.

        2 Replies
        1. re: uhockey
          k
          kevin Jan 30, 2014 03:45 PM

          Scoops has always been great.

          Did you hit it up on Heliotrope (the original) or Overland ????

          1. re: kevin
            uhockey Jan 30, 2014 05:20 PM

            York. Highland Park.

        2. uhockey Jan 30, 2014 06:46 AM

          Donut Friend: http://endoedibles.com/?p=15922

          Considered by many to be the best doughnut scene in the United States, seemingly an independent mom ‘n pop shop turning out glazed rings on every corner, my first stop on a weekend trip to Los Angeles started at trendy Northeast newcomer, “Donut Friend.” Certainly not the classic doughnuttery, instead opting for a few traditional styles sliced and filled and/or topped with designer ingredients it was with a wide diversity of options that I found myself presented and setting aside slightly exorbitant prices I opted for a half dozen inclusive of cake, chocolate cake, yeasted, fritter, and bearclaw; the results thankfully justifying the $22 tab at almost every turn. Featuring friendly, educated service happy to discuss owner Mark Trombino’s culinary concept, interesting back story (available here – http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospe...) and clever titles at length it would be difficult to say which of my selections was “best,” but with each fork-and-knife amalgamation featuring elements both sweet and savory I particularly loved the complex flavor profile of the warm Apple Pie and rich, smooth finish of Nutellavision – each on par with many plated restaurant delicacies – while the Apple Fritter was reference standard, a greaseless golden crunch overlying freshly mashed cinnamon apples and a downy-soft crumb. Taken best as a ‘dessert shop’ rather than a simple doughnut vendor Donut Friend is without a doubt worth the cost, calories, and perhaps even the traffic…and not just from Los Angeles, but possibly even Las Vegas.

          4 Replies
          1. re: uhockey
            k
            kevin Jan 30, 2014 03:45 PM

            You seem like a donut man, so hence get thee already to The Donut Man.

            The donuts and cronuts at Seaside Donuts and Bakery in Newport Beach are really great.

            1. re: kevin
              uhockey Jan 30, 2014 05:19 PM

              I've been to Donut Man. It was alright. Preferred DK and Donut Friend.

              1. re: uhockey
                k
                kevin Jan 30, 2014 05:19 PM

                I thought the DK's donut on Santa Monica, near 17th Street were terrible.

                And they committed highway robbery on the prices they charge for their version of Cronut's at 5 bucks a pop.

                Does Ansel's sell their cronuts at 10 dollars a pop then or did DK's just reduce the price of their cronuts to 2.50 dollars a pop since the donut craze has died down. ??????

            2. re: uhockey
              k
              kevin Jan 30, 2014 03:46 PM

              The apple pie donut is infused with vermond double cheddda cheese,r ight ??????

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