Locanda del Lago – Bite of the Beast – Santa Monica

Bite of the Beast - GOOSE

Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago

I was invited back to the monthly supper club Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica. The last Thursday of every month, Lago hosts a communal meal, featuring animal roasts and traditional, rustic Italian dishes. The “Bite of the Beast” includes a 5-course dinner featuring the choice animal, and optional wine pairing. October’s beast? Goose.
I loathe geese. Like, seriously cannot stand them. I am not going to even explain by irrational hatred of geese with hyperbolic words; instead, here is a photo I recently snapped in Midleton, Co. Cork Ireland:

Cork Co. Ireland

Why is there a monument to the asshattery of geese, the bane of every child’s existence, erected in the middle of a quaint Irish town? I have no idea; I can only assume to serve as a reminder to the local children that constant vigilance is the only way to prevent random acts of geese violence. That, or to serve as a warning for any would-be mischief makers that anyone suspected of being a hooligan will be thrown to the town geese and paraded around town for all to mock. I see you, Ireland.

What I am driving at people is that because I dispise and fear geese so much, I was eagerly anticipating a five-course menu where goose is the main protein. The geese used in this month’s Morso della Bestia is not your run-of-the-mill park dwelling fowl terrorist, but a fancy bird from Whetstone Valley Farm in Vermont. This time around, I decided to go with the premium wine pairings that accompanied each course.

Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Antipasto: pan-roasted goose leg . watercress salad . black mission figs . tomato vinegar
Wine: Rosé Zelia . Olivi . Toscana ’13

The sweet acidic tomato vinegar added a grateful zing to this very meaty salad. Once all mixed up, it was the perfect start to our goose feast. As for the wine, it should be mentioned (again) that I am not generally a fan of rosé. I’m more apt to try a rosé if it’s from France, though, because they’re flavor profile rarely includes “battery acid,” but I can safely add rosé from the Toscana region as more than acceptable.

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast GOOSE
Primo: Peruvian purple potato soup . seared goose “foie gras”
Wine: Sauvignon Blanc . Venica e Venica “Ronco del Cero”. Friuli Venezia Giulia ’12

I sucked in a tight breath of pre-judgment when I read “purple potato” because purple potatoes (along with purple carrots, squid ink and blood oranges) are on the relatively short list of foods which may taste fantastic, but I cannot get over the visual. Thankfully there were no traces of purple within this soup, and my brain was left in peace to mellow out with a delicious bowl of soup and a glass of sweet but dry wine with a citrus finish. I took a wicked delight in the rich, decadent foie gras, elevating this otherwise humble soup.

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast GOOSE
Piatto di Mezzo: Farro Mantecato . offal . brown butter sage . grana padano cheese
Wine: Meritage Blend . Cryptic. Sonoma ’12

Unsurprisingly my favorite – not simply for the goose offal (hearts, kidneys, livers), which makes me feel like I am absorbing the powers of the almighty goose – but for the miracle of transforming farro into a risotto-like base. I honestly could have eaten two portions of this. Oh, wait, except I totally did because my mom was getting full and wanted to make sure she had enough room for the next two courses. Thanks, mommy! In my notes for the wine, I wrote “smooth with oak” so I am guessing there were notes of aforementioned tree? I remember liking it OK, but being way more impressed with the house red. Protip: Table/House red in an authentic Italian restaurant run by actual Italians is going to be fantastic.

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Locanda del Lago’s Michelin-starred Chef Gianfranco Minuz

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Secondo: Pan roasted smoked goose breast . braised turnips . espresso honey reduction
Wine: Super Tuscan . Lucente . Toscana ’12

Would you like some meat with your meat? Oh, yeah. Supple and generous, this plate of poultry melted in my mouth. Admittedly, I adore turnips. Raw, boiled, mashed, roasted, and braised as eaten here, I have not met a turnip I did not take the utmost pleasure in scarfing down. I was wary of an espresso-honey reduction, but its smooth, rustic flavor tickled my taste buds. The wine was very sophisticated, a nice juxtapose to the deceptively simple dish.

 Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Dolce: Apple strudel . whipped cream . caramel sauce
Wine: Lambrusco Molo 8 . Lombardia

This strudel was delightfully sweet without drowning us in sugar overkill. Pinenuts were dotted throughout each slice, giving an agreeable contrasting texture to chew on. Lambrusco is one of my favorite wines, and I was in 7th Heaven.

January 2016 will be Venison, book your seat now and check the website after the first of the year for the menu!

Locanda del Lago
231 Arizona Avenue
Santa Monica, CA — 90401
(310) 451-3525
http://www.lagosantamonica.com

Vernetti – Larchmont Village


Chef Steve Vernetti


Restaurants in their infancy can be a tricky situation. Everyone is a bundle of nerves: the chef wants their food to be perfection; the public relations want rave reviews and the invited media is simply hoping for the best (and hungry). And the best is certainly what Chef Steve Vernetti and wife Joanna gave at the media preview of their eponymous Italian-American restaurant in Larchmont Village.

Steve and Joanna Vernetti bought Larchmont’s beloved Italian restaurant, Girasole, in fall 2013, worked closely with its former owner during the transition, and have maintained the core kitchen and wait staff that made the restaurant such a special place.

Spoilers: everything served this night was absolutely amazing. It was difficult to not eat all of absolutely everything because I would have been full very early on. So I’ll only add my notes where necessary.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Giardiniera

Comments: Nice tang. Really worth ordering to give your taste-buds a wake-up zing.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Olive Bread + Olive Oil

Comments: Crusty and soft with big chunks of black olives. Delicious freshly hot out of the oven.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Deviled egg crostini• white anchovy

Comments: Anchovy mellows out the paprika spice.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Ceci bean crostini• mint, pecorino

Comments: Mint is potent. Tied with the deviled egg costini as my favorite.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Roasted beet crostini • house ricotta, basil, toasted pistachios



Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Salumi platter
prosciutto, porchetta, bresaola, spicy calabrese salami, house giardiniera

Comments: I could eat that bresaola until the day I die. The porchetta melts in your mouth. All of the meats are perfection.

Intervallo:Tagliatelle, rigatoni, spaghettini, pappardelle and ravioli are made with Vernetti’s Rosito Bisani TR 95 Pasta Extruder, a workhorse in the new kitchen. Seafood comes from boat-to-table, sustainable sources, and premium meats from a local, specialty butcher.

Vernetti Tasting
Pappardelle con funghi • sautéed wild mushrooms, cream, parmigiano

Comments: My favorite. Always has been, always will be. You and me, pappardelle + mushrooms. ‘Til death do us part.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Rigatoni spuntature
braised short rib ragu, marrow, crispy greens, roasted tomatoes, breadcrumbs

Comments: I am not a short ribs fan; every time I have eaten short ribs, I have been pretty dissatisfied. This dish would have been my #1 favorite if my blind loyalty to mushrooms and pappardelle did not keep me on the straight & narrow. Seriously, I want a full serving of this. Mom’s favorite as well.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Linguine alla vongole
manila clams, white wine, garlic, crushed red pepper

Comments: Another personal favorite and oh god even though it was a two-bite job, easily one of the best Linguine and clams I’ve ever eaten. It’s creamy rather than soupy, a task that is deceptively difficult when concerning pasta.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Grilled octopus • creamy white beans, fennel and cabbage slaw

Comments: I wish I could have eaten more than a couple of bites, but warm cabbage + I do not get on well. The octopus was lovely, though.


Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Bistecca alla fiorentina
dry aged prime porterhouse, baby arugula, shaved parmigiano

Comments: I have nothing to say because I am too busy eating and making noises I’d rather not…describe. Use your imagination.


Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Seared yam and sage polenta cake

Intervallo: Chef Steve Vernetti’s take on Italian-American cuisine reflects a lifetime of diverse experiences and training. At age six, his mother taught him to cook on the family’s working ranch in Nevada, where they grew their own produce and raised livestock. As an adult, cooking became his vocation and Vernetti honed his art by traveling throughout Europe to Berlin, Paris, Venice, Florence, Amsterdam and Brussels. When Chef Vernetti and his wife, Joanna, now co-founder of a television production company and the restaurant’s creative visionary and business manager, moved back to the U.S. in the late 1990s, he cooked with The Patina Group in Los Angeles. The Vernettis settled in Larchmont and are now raising their three children here (adorable, by the way, as the proud chef shared photos with me).

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Cannoli • house ricotta cream, candied peel/pistachio

Comments: I cannot tell you how difficult it is to find a decent cannoli in this town. Thank goodness for people like Chef Vernetti who get its simple beauty.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Panna Cotta • fresh strawberry composta

Comments: Throwing all caution and stomach warnings to the wind, I ate this with gusto and nearly licked my plate. My favorite dessert of the evening.

Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
Tiramisu

Comments: Took one bite before crumpling to the floor and slipping into a food coma.


Vernetti is in the restaurant every day, creating both traditional and innovative dishes – building on Girasole’s legacy, and filling his restaurant with the happy sounds of his community. During the remodel, he traveled, researched and tasted to ensure every dish at Vernetti is made with the highest quality ingredients. He continues to try new variations to menu items and add nuances while keeping all the favorites that Girasole patrons came to know and love.
“To own a restaurant right here in Larchmont Village, in the same neighborhood where we are raising our family, is pretty amazing,” said Chef Steve Vernetti. “Serving homemade pastas and choice cuts of meat and seafood, seasonal vegetables and baked goods, and seeing all that happens around a table set with a well prepared meal in a lovely setting is a dream come true.”


Vernetti
225 North Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
323-798-5886
Facebook
Hours:
Dinner: 17:30–23:00
Lunch: 12–15:00 (beginning next week!)
Weekday Breakfast: 09-12 (SOON!)
Weekend Brunch: 09–14:00 (SOON!)

Bombo by Mark Peel – Grand Central Market

Bombo Foods - Chef Mark Peel 2
Chef Mark Peel

It’s funny how cyclic the world is, you know? In what seems like the blink of eye, a place goes from “hot” to “not” to “hot” again. Case in point: Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. When I was a kid/teen, GCM was the last place anyone would recommend to eat in downtown Los Angeles. It was still listed as a place to take your visiting cousin, because, y’know, history, but chances were high you’d take them to Philippe’s for lunch. If at all in DTLA. For reference, this is also the same period of time when walking along the east side of Alameda Street in Little Tokyo was not even an option unless you were looking to score some sweet, sweet crank.

Bombo steam kettles
Steam Kettle Cooking at Bombo

I don’t know when it happened, precisely, but Grand Central Market slowly but surely received a much needed injection of vitality and innovation in the form of chefs taking an interest in L.A. History and wanting to simplify the dining experience by trading in the fine linen for counter service. Wexler’s Deli, Berlin Currywurst, Belcampo Meat Co., Horse Thief, Oyster Gourmet, and of course, Eggslut are the heavy-hitters now, packing in crowds so wrought with hunger and zeal, it’s commonplace for food to sell out. Joining their ranks is Bombo, brought to us Chef Mark Peel, regarded as one of the founders of California cuisine. Serving up broth-based seafood dishes and salads, with the majority of the cooking done in steel-jacketed steam kettles, I was fortunate enough to score a preview before Bombo opened and sample selections from their enticing menu.

Please enjoy – and try not to droll on your keyboard.

https://www.tastemade.com/js/embed.jsBombo

My favorite dish of the evening was the steamed clams with pork sausage, accompanied by roasted onion, chickpeas in lobster broth atop a bed of pappardelle. Dishes I have to go back for: steamed mussels, Seattle Fish Stew and the chicken salad!

SteamedMussles
Chef Mark Peel

Have you tasted Bombo yet, or visited Grand Central Market as of late?

BOMBO
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
11a-3p
http://bombofoods.com

Osawa Celebrates Two Years in Pasadena

It’s always a happy day when a restaurant marks another successful year on the calendar, as is the case with Osawa Shabu Shabu & Sushi, which celebrated its second anniversary in Old Town Pasadena last week. I have blogged about Osawa before, so you can check out their day-to-day menu from that post. However, this was a party, so I showed up in video mode and filmed a quick one-minute Tastemade vlog. Check out the highlights from the anniversary celebration:

https://www.tastemade.com/js/embed.jsOsawa

Owner Sayuri Tachibe employs Omotenashi, the Japanese art of hospitality, where customers are honored guests and eating at Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi becomes more than just a meal, but an an elevated experience in traditional Japanese dining. おめでとうございます~! (Congratulations!)

Osawa Shabu Shabu + Sushi
77 North Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, California 91103
Phone: 626.683.1150
http://www.theosawa.com

Bite of the Beast – Locanda del Lago Santa Monica

Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago

photo courtesy of Locanda del Lago

Since Locanda del Lago’s opening in April 1991, the restaurant has established a reputation for producing authentic cuisine from Northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Lago is the proud recipient of the Marchio Qualita “Q”, a prestigious award given following a rigorous selection process to a select few restaurants for specializing in authentic, regional Italian cuisine. Lago’s comfortable, warm atmosphere and sidewalk patio mimic the charm of an Italian “locanda” (inn or trattoria) “del lago” (of the lake).

Lago utilizes locally sourced ingredients, uses “green” practices when possible and promotes sustainability as a business and community leader. In addition to the regular menu, Lago offers a “Chef’s Seasonal Menu” available every night featuring the most flavorful, organic ingredients from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers’ Market in conjunction with all-natural, free-range & hormone-free proteins.


photo courtesy of Locanda del Lago

The last Thursday of every month, LAGO hosts a communal meal featuring whole animal roasts and traditional, rustic dishes entitled ”Morso della Bestia” (Bite of the Beast). This dinner series features the choice animal paired with wines and seasonal ingredients from the farmers’ market. It was at one of these dinners that I, along with my friend Manik in tow, attended. The featured animal for February was Durham Ranch wild boar. Durham Wild Boar is all natural and feral from Texas, trapped in the wild and processed exclusively under the Durham Ranch label.

Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Antipasto
Herb marinated & roasted wild boar loin – bed of endive & fresh horseradish

Off to a fresh and sumptuous start, there was hardly a piece of green left on anyone’s plate – my own especially. I was even pleased that my friend Manik cleaned his plate and only just stopped himself from asking for seconds.

Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Caprese Martini

Going on the urging of the hostess, I passed over all of the more sweet-favoring cocktails to try a one-of-a-kind cocktail inspired by the traditional antipasto Caprese salad. I’ll admit, I was skeptical – but it turned out to be one of the most innovative and invigorating cocktails I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. It was herbaceous with just a hint of natural sweetness from the tomato. It was like drinking a garden and snacking on fresh made cheese. Really gorgeous, do not skip!

Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Primo
Housemade spaghetti with beer braised wild boar ragú

My favorite dish of the evening, and one so simple! Firstly, I do not know if there will ever be a time in my life when I will be able to perfect homemade spaghetti. Oh, I make my own pasta sure enough, but one bite of this and you know this was made by someone who has been doing it for decades. I can only guess what the noodles are seasoned with, but my assumption is salt, black pepper and a good Parmesan cheese. There could not possibly be more than that, and yet I wanted a punch bowl filled with it, tossed with these tender morsels of beer-braised wild boar.

Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Piatto de Mezzo
Risotto with housemade wild boar sausage, leek & sage

With that perfect al dente bite Arborio rice and a creamy sauce, this dish harmonized rich textures with savory hunks of boar sausage – and what better pairs with sausage than sage and leeks? Another home-run that left us wanting more.

Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Oppale 32 Beer

An Italian beer described as “very hoppy ale, top-fermented and fermented in the bottle.” The bouquet is described as having notes of caramel and toffee with hints of herbs and fruity ripe pineapple. Manik really enjoyed it.

Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Chef Gianfranco Minuz

At this point in the evening, Chef came out to personally dish up our last savory. Gianfranco Minuz was raised in Portogruaro in Northern Italy. Minuz grew up learning how to process and cure salami and prosciutto from his father, a butcher; while his mother’s expertise in the kitchen sparked his desire in cooking professionally. At age fifteen, Gianfranco attended the regional culinary school and following commencement, he immediately began working at a string of Michelin-starred restaurants and under the tutelage of the renowned Gulatiero Marchesi, considered to be the founder of modern Italian cuisine. Chef earned his own Michelin star with his Pasadena based restaurant, Trattoria Tre Venezie, where he ran the kitchen for ten years before transitioning to Santa Monica for new ventures. One bite and you can taste the illustrious career of Chef Minuz!

Morso Della Bestia - Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
Secondo
Wild boar shoulder with braised savoy cabbage & chardonnay sauce

While I will never be a fan of cooked cabbage, I enjoyed the heartiness of this dish, paired wonderfully with a wedge of grilled polenta. The chardonnay sauce was lip-smacking delectable. A perfect bite for a chilled February evening.

Bite of the Beast - Dessert
Housemade hazelnut meringue cookie and chocolate mousse

I was so stuffed, though, that I could only take a couple of bites of the airy and rich mousse!


There is a distinct image of ostentatious and pomp I conjure up when I think about dining options straddling Third Street Promenade. Locanda del Lago breaks all of those rules and prejudices with its airy, inviting European rustic charm and open kitchen; the vibe reads “welcome to our family” loud and clear. Bite of the Beast is a brilliant way to spend a Thursday evening, and I encourage you will grab your favorite dining partner and give it a go.

Upcoming Morso della Bestia Dinners:
March (03/26): Porchetta ~ Durazo Farm Suckling Pig
April (04/23): Agnello ~ Niman Ranch Lamb
May (05/28): Halibut
five course menu: 55
free-flowing house wine: +18
premium wine pairing: +28

(not including tax or gratuity)

For more information: Bite of the Beast | Locanda del Lago

The Raymond Restaurant – South Pasadena

The Raymond Pasadena


Long time Pasadena residents and loan operator Rob Levy and his wife Leslie never quite set out to be the owner of one of the most historically rich and subtly acclaimed restaurants in all of Los Angeles. He just wanted a simple piece of property in a quiet, hilly neighborhood straddling the border of South Pasadena and Pasadena. The owner of the property would only sell Mr. Levy the building on one condition: that he purchase the former caretaker cottage of the once illustrious Raymond Hotel along with it.

The hotel was established in 1886, suffered a horrendous fire on Easter Sunday 1895, and was then rebuilt into a luxurious 300 room haven for the budding Hollywood elite like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. For a more in depth article on the history of The Raymond Hotel, please visit KCET.

Rob, Leslie, plus business partner Gary Weyand, maintained a reliable if basic fine dining experience for roughly thirty-five years before deciding it was time to elevate The Raymond Restaurant to new heights. An interior revamp to Craftsman style glory, the hiring of chef Tim Guiltinan, the launch of 1886 Bar and a complete menu overhaul has amplified The Raymond House’s reputation from a nice place to go for a special occasion to the top of every local’s MUST EAT list.

I, for one, have been aching to dine at The Raymond Restaurant since I first moved to South Pasadena in 1997. Once the opportunity presented itself to me, I kind of went…batty. And greedy. Really, truly, madly, shamelessly greedy. We’re talking the personification of deadly sin Gluttony itself. Of course, I dragged my mother along because 1) I could let her take a partial fall for my edacity and 2) I think she would evict me if I didn’t invite her. So gird your loins and ready your appetites, my wee gluttons. You’ll be calling The Raymond House for the first available reservation in no time.

The Raymond Pasadena
Bonito Crusted Beef Sashimi
fried garlic | jalapeño salsa | Pitchfork dressing

Call it tartar, call it sashimi, call it carpaccio – it’s raw (or near raw) beef on a plate; it never fails to beckon a primal, cave-woman appetite that I am more than happy to indulge. Bonus for the fried garlic and jalapeño salsa for that extra punch.

The Raymond Pasadena
Tale of Two Cities
rum, apple brandy and eucalyptus

Mom had a difficult time picking from the rum-heavy This cocktail is split into a duet, with one served up in a coupe glass and the other on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass.

The Raymond Pasadena
Wild Northwestern Mushrooms
forest soil | salsify | smoked vinegar | “hay”

Every time someone declares their hatred of mushrooms, a wood sprite drops dead. Just think about that the next time you wrinkle your nose at fabulously fungi-forward starters like these Wild Northwestern Mushrooms! I was a fan of all of these mushrooms, but I have a soft-spot for enoki. The “hay” was also surprisingly tasty and held its own against the other stars of this appetizer.

The Raymond Pasadena
Strawberry & Pea Salad
local chevre | pea tendrils | Creminelli bresaola | lemon dressing

If salads were more like this one, I would probably indulge more in them. More than a mere palate cleanser, this revitalizing appetizer utilized the best of summer flavors all in one dish. Do not pass up on it!

The Raymond Pasadena
French 86
gin, lemon and Champagne with strawberry liqueur

I’m a sucker for a solid champagne cocktail. I managed to sip this throughout the appetizers and main course, a far cry from my usual knock ’em back in one swig approach. Good on me.

Pork, Peaches & Bourbon - The Raymond Pasadena
Pork, Peaches & Bourbon
crispy belly | masa pudding | sweet peach salsa | bourbon

My least favorite of the appetizers, but only because I’m still making an effort to love pork belly as much as the entire world says I ought to. I’m trying, everyone, I’m trying. I loved the masa pudding and sweet peach salsa, though!

The Raymond Pasadena
Octopus & Bone Marrow Bruschetta
radish | carrot | tomato | toasted bread

This dish is akin to finding a lotto ticket on the ground and finding out said lotto ticket is the sole winning ticket to a seven-figure winning. I love bone marrow, and I love octopus – and it makes me truly believe that I must have a soul mate somewhere out there in this big world of ours that someone could conceptualize and bring this beautiful, triumphant marriage to fruition.

Beef Cheek Pasta Strappata - The Raymond Pasadena
Beef Cheek
pasta strappata | peas + carrots | fried egg

It was still summer when I ordered this and wound up taking 70% home with me, but from what I ate I positively love. Rich and homey, this dish is 100% comfort cuisine at its finest.

The Raymond Pasadena
Roasted Duck
haricot vert | smoked onion | hazelnut | “Flavors of the Forest”

Believe it or not, I loved my mom’s dish even more. Duck is very hit or miss with me, but this was a knock-it-out-of Dodger Stadium home-run kind of dish for both of us. I would order this in a heartbeat.

The Raymond Pasadena
Peachy
roasted peaches | duck fat financier | honey cured & noyaux apricot kernel ice cream

I do not know how I let our waitress talk us into desserts. I was fine; fine, I tell you! However, between the eager staff and my dessert-greedy mother, we went for it. Knowing I couldn’t handle anything richer than my entree, I opted for this delightfully whimsical and fresh fruit-forward dessert.

The Raymond Pasadena
Strawberries n’ Cream
rose scented vanilla custard | glazed strawberries | almond meringue | creme fraiche ice cream

Mom went for this, my second option. She wasn’t into the meringue, so we swapped components of our desserts to blend them together in one harmonious medley of summer fare.


Steeped in glamorous L.A. history and brimming with mouth-watering edible innovation, The Raymond Restaurant is Pasadena’s best poorly kept secret. P.S. Don’t forget about brunch!

The Raymond Restaurant
1250 South Fair Oaks Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105
Phone: 626.441.3136
http://theraymond.com

Celestino Ristorante – Pasadena

Celestino Pasadena Header

Steffie Love’s wedding is nearly here, folks, and I am exhausted, thrilled, sad and dizzyingly happy all at once. Is that possible? Also, is it possible to feel nerves, despite the fact that Steffie is my fifth bride?! I have nothing to be nervous about: my dress is fantastic, the shoes are flat to ensure no face-planting, my steak is picked out, my present all wrapped up, jewelry picked out, and everything is essentially ready to go.

All that is left is my first gel manicure, which I scheduled this Saturday. I kind of wonder what all of the fuss is about with gels, since they’re all the rage. I liked KD’s well enough when she showed me back in D.C. last year, but manicures are a luxury for the gainfully employed, so whether I like them or not, I do not foresee myself indulging in them on a regular basis any time in the imminent future.

On another note, I hosted my first #FDBLOGGERS chat on Twitter today! Did you see me? Were you there? Did you totally unfollow me because of the tidal wave of tweets? It’s okay. The chat is usually populated with food bloggers from the UK, Ireland and other parts of Europe, but this American held her own pretty well, if I’m permitted to say so. We definitely had a void of silence once I inquired after favorite chilled soups, but minds and palates were open, especially after I posted this article from the New York Times listing 12 delicious cold soups to enjoy during the summer heat.

Without further ado, let is continue with my recent sojourn to Celestino, a Pasadena institution for classic Italian cuisine helmed by Calogero Drago (brother of Celestino Drago).

Continue reading