Tequila Taco Tryst
Yamashiro, Loteria Grill and Red O
– Yamashiro takes top honors for having the best taco of the night — a miso and sake-marinated black cod, accompanied with tortilla chips and house-made wasabi guacamole (you can find these tacos at the Thursday evening farmers’ market at Yamashiro).
– Red O and Taberna Mexicana tie for the award for most creative tacos, using a thin layer of jicama in place of the usual corn tortilla. Chef Rick Bayless of Red O topped it with shrimp, caviar and a creamy green sauce. Taberna’s was filled with a flavorful and refreshing shrimp ceviche (they also had an excellent veggie sope).
– Loteria Grill served a delicious red snapper Veracruz taco in a tomato, caper and olive sauce, topped with refried black beans and sweet plantains.
– The newly opened Mercado (on 4th St. in Santa Monica) gets points for having the best vegetarian taco of the night with plenty of delicious diced grilled veggies. They also offered an al pastor taco, which received high marks as well.
Fashion Bites Brunch
Fig & Olive, Napa Valley Grille and Sweet Butter Kitchen Café
– Napa Valley Grille: Heritage pork belly with smoked cheddar grits, chimichurri, and a poached quail egg. Also served Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho Shooters. Chef Joseph Gillard’s take on “bacon and eggs” was both scrumptious and satisfying.
– Fig & Olive: Signature Crostini, Zucchini Carpaccio, mini Fig & Gorgonzola Tartlets, and Chilled Cucumber Soup. Lavender Madeleines served as a fragrant, summer dessert.
– Sweet Butter Kitchen Café: Grilled Grafton cheddar cheese sandwich with roasted cherry tomatoes and basil aioli and a salad of shaved brussel sprouts with grana padana and hazelnuts. This is my new favorite on the block.
Picnic in the Hills
Pitfire, Greenleaf and Montage. Although there were dozens of decadent and amazing dishes served at this final event, this combination was the perfect meal, in my opinion – a crisp wood-fired pizza, a healthy salad and desserts for days.
– Pitfire Pizza: Heirloom Tomato Pizza with herb ricotta, cherry heirloom crudo, cabernet vinaigrette and sweet basil. I stood in line three times for this thin, crispy pizza.
– Greenleaf: Antioxidant Orchard Salad with baby greens, grapes, celery, agave-roasted walnuts, dried cranberries, blue Cheese, mint, red onion, cucumbers, green apple and berries, tossed with a pomegranate-mustard vinaigrette. This salad is both healthy and delicious.
– Scarpetta: Executive Pastry Chef at Scarpetta (Montage Beverly Hills), Richard Ruskell, displayed an eye-popping array of desserts – shortbread, brownies, blondies, chocolate chip cookies, fruit crumb bars, peanut butter cookies and more!
— Liz Laing