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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

157 Wooster S
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 865-5762

We headed down to Wooster Street for Frank Pepe's, founded in 1925 and currently operating a handful of locations by surviving relatives within Connecticut and New York. We switched it up for the second pizzeria. As Pepe's is known for it's fresh clam pie, we went with the white pie for this visit. There were about 15 people in line and we were anxious to get into NYC, so we ordered a pie to go and ate it in the car.

$23.95 White clam pie with bacon (7)
In addition to freshly shucked clams, we got bacon to give the pie a surf 'n' turf flare. The clams were great and although the bacon was average, that grizzle juice on clams was reminiscent of bacon wrapped shrimp. Good flavor combination.

My girlfriend and her sister thought this was a better pie than Modern. I thought it was competitive, but I would give the edge to Modern. I was stuffed at this point and it may have made sense to jog into the city as we had dinner reservation later that night.

Modern Apizza

874 State St
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 776-5306

On our drive from Boston to NYC, New Haven, CT was conveniently located midway on the route. With New Haven making quite the culinary statement, we decided on three well known pizzerias (Modern, Pepe's, Sally's) and the oldest hamburger house in the US, Louis Lunch. Two on the way there and two on the way back. Unfortunately, Louis was on vacation, so Sally's was the sole stop on the way back to Boston. Modern was the first stop on our drive down to NYC. We got there around lunch time and were seated immediately.

$15.25 Medium Sausage, Eggplant Pie (8)
We had a medium pie with half sausage and half eggplant. I'm not sure how eggplant got the nod, but I believe I was silent during the voting process. I thought it was the best of the three New Haven pies. It came out crisp with a nice slightly charred crust. The sausage was of great quality and had a deep, well developed flavor. The eggplant was surprisingly good. It was breaded, which gave it a contrasting texture. Far better than the soggy eggplant slice I had at Lombardi's years ago.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Amuse 1 - Mojito, Gin & Tonic, and Greyhound (9)

Amuse 2 - Avocado, Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Sesame Seeds, Creme Fraiche (9)

$165 6 Course Foie Gras Tasting Menu

Foie gras terrine with grape gelee and cranberry jam (9)

Foie Gras Shabu-Shabu, Matsutaki Broth (9)

Foie Gras poached in Duck Fat (9)

Foie Gras Ravioli (5)

Grilled Foie Gras for 2, Cauliflower Puree, Black Truffle Sauce, Gastrique, Mustard Greens (10)

Chocolate Ganache, Peanut Butter, Foie Gras Ice Cream, Popcorn, Apricot Black Pepper Chutney

Foie Gras Lollipop

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vito's Pizza

846 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 652-6859

Vito’s is located in a strip mall on La Cienega Blvd. in close proximity to a select group of businesses omnipresent with TMZ cameras, including STK, Coco DeVille, KOI, and Area. Usually I would take Fountain within West Hollywood or Hollywood. But on this Sunday night, after spending some time at Borders researching for an upcoming NYC XMAS trip, I was already on Sunset Blvd. and opted for the ever dying scenic route.

The usual dearth of excitement and livelihood I have grown to love since Dublin’s closure years ago, except for one hot club as we approached Crescent Heights. You could hear the trance blasting a quarter mile away. The outside tables were covered with young virgin butts bouncing to the beats of Lil’ Wayne. There were drunken guys stumbling on the outside walkways with their shirts off. But wait, this wasn’t a club. This was XIV, the recent culinary development from the growing empire of acclaimed San Francisco chef Michael Mina. Could it be, Mina has trade in his signature Caviar Parfait for a bottle of Cristal and fertilized eggs of a different sort. I was hoping with the recent change of menu back to his classics, Michael Mina would be a mainstay in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, what I witness on Sunday will keep me away for good. There’s no way I’m paying $50 for a pot pie with thoughts of sitting at a table that needed to be disinfected from the preceding night’ s festivities.

But, tonight, I was on my way to try one of the more respected pizzerias in Los Angeles. At 10PM, I drove into the empty parking lot with a serendipitous ease of parking my car, no valet charge and my choice of 10 unoccupied spots. Once inside, there are slices of cheese, margherita, white, sausage, and veggie that can quickly be reheated in the oven. I feel a pizza can only be tested whole, fresh out of the oven and that’s what I ordered with the addition of pepperoni and meatballs.

And the master pizzaiolo is hard at work in the kitchen tossing homemade dough and ladling it with his fresh tomato sauce, noticeably aged from his picture that adorns the website and pizza boxes.

$27 Pepperoni Meatball Pizza (6)
The crust was a bit soggy and not ch
arred on the edges. It didn’t appear to be the fault of over saucing or toppings, but more the enormity of the pie. The sauce wasn’t as vibrant as I would have liked and the cheese was basic processed mozzarella. Both topping were positive. The pepperoni, although thinly sliced, had a strong meaty flavor. I still prefer the double cut. The meatballs were well seasoned, moist, and probably the only ones I have enjoyed without fennel.

I like Vito’s for what it is. A local joint with a pizzaiolo that I witnessed take pride in everything that went into and came out of his oven. It won’t put a dent in New York’s pizza empire and if I was watching a game with a cocktail and a slice of Vito’s, I probably would ask, “Where’s the pizza from?” But, it’s a good pizza nevertheless.

Huarache Azteca Restaurante

5225 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 478-9572

The signature dish, as the restaurant’s name indicates, is a Huarache. It translates to sandal in Spanish. My understanding is that Mexicans immigrating to the U.S. would wrap their feet in masa to get over the barb wire fencing safely. When they got hungry, they would just eat the dough. In 1995, L.A. Gear prototyped a sneaker designed around masa and successfully marketed it towards cholos and since then both the huarache and the huarache, have been a staple in Los Angeles culture.

$2.50 each Cabeza [left] and Adobada [right] Huarache (6)

The oblong masa base comes topped with meat, crème, cojita, onions, and cilantro. Both had a lot of flavors coming together in unison. I enjoyed the chewy bite the dough had freshly sautéed in ample fat. The depth of the dough gave it a crisp exterior and a tender center that just says homemade. Of the two meats, the adobada was superior. The heavy seasonings and marinade gave it a more complex and rich flavor. Although, I’m a big fan of head, I’ve had more memorable experiences, some of which have been in the back of a taco truck.

$2 Beef Taquito (5)

The taquito was about average. I downgraded it mainly for the lack of flavor in the beef. I would have preferred a better ratio of beef to tortilla also. On the upside, I liked the addition of Cojita (the Mexican version of Parmesan cheese), crème, and fresh avocado. For anybody making a run for the border, I read that taquitos sold in Mexico are marketing under the name tacos dorados, or golden tacos.