What’s the Dish: Valentine’s Day Edition


Forget the naysayers; I dig Valentine’s Day. I don’t believe it is a holiday that ought to be exclusively about romantic love, and this year I am going to declare my Valentine to be tumblr and all of the time I have been wasting on there. I love you, Tumblr. Stay cray.
You, however, may have a life outside of the Internet (please take me with you?) and it would behoove you to take note on these specials set up especially for Valentine’s Day.

Disclaimer: I have sampled all of these brands and would not recommend them to you otherwise.

I’ve written about Apple Farm Inn – so take my word that it’s saturated with country chic charm. They’ve got a Love Month Package deal going on for the entire month of February, which includes:
$40 dining credit to their restaurant (I can vouch for the breakfast!)
Champagne Set-up at check-in
Long stem rose on the bed at check-in
Daily Guest Wine Tasting Reception
$10 coupon off any massage treatment at our Spa during your stay
$25 off one Luxurious Rose Oil Massage during your stay

Limited availability, so hurry over to www.applefarm.com and book your romantic night away now.

Rate and applicable rooms: $199(Sun-Thu) $239(Fri-Sat) plus tax (KD,QD,KS, QS)

If an intimate evening at home is what you crave, let The Spot Gourmet take care of you with their current Valentine’s Day promotion: Love Potion #99
This dinner date package includes:
– Four-course gourmet meal for two
– Roses
– Candles
– Massage oil (oh la la)
This package costs $99 (plus tax) Orders are available for pick up or delivery so you can have a romantic date at home. The Spot is also taking orders until February 13th so those making last minute plans are covered.

Love Potion #99 Menu:

Teaser: Bacon wrapped dates with chevre and almond

Passion Plate: Radicchio, red leaf lettuce, red endive, pomegranate seeds, red apples, dried cranberries, candied pecans and a raspberry champagne vinaigrette

Satisfy: Beef tenderloin served with a truffle Madeira sauce. Heart shaped wild mushroom risotto cake. Sauté of fresh mushrooms. Braised baby vegetables

Indulge: Heart shaped double chocolate whiskey cake served with a white chocolate sauce, red raspberry puree and fresh raspberries

To Order: (818) 861-7335 or info@thespotgourmet.com

Wood & Vine

Lastly, if getting out and enjoying a good meal at a restaurant is more your style, I give my endorsement to Wood and Vine. In case you can’t make it out on Thursday, they’re going to run the menu Friday and Saturday, too!

Wood & Vine Valentine’s Day Menu:

Uni pasta ~ leeks, capers, anise cream, tomato ragu, fried leeks
Duo of duck breast ~ seared and sliced duck breast, duck leg confit, wild rice, purple sweet potato puree, blood orange glaze
New York steak for two ~ roasted garlic gnocchi, local carrots, mustard greens, carrot puree, mushroom sauce
Smoked halibut ~ yukon gold potatoes, english peas, house-made bacon, english pea puree, mint, cilantro
Local pork chop ~ bacon pomme puree, brussel sprout leaves, bacon jerky
Vegetable salad ~ carrots, yukon gold potatoes, english peas, mint, blood oranges, toasted almonds, gorgonzola cheese
Dark chocolate mousse ~ strawberry compote, streusel, shaved dark chocolate

All dishes available a la carte.
Make your reservations online or call (323) 334-3360

What will you be doing for Valentine’s Day?

Event: LACO à la carte Series

I could really never be accused of being a fancy-pants kind of person with fancy-pants tastes and inclinations, but I have been known, from time to time, to wipe the dust off my finest duds, slap on a couple pounds of make-up and run a brush through my hair for an evening of class. Case in point: the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra “à la carte” series, which runs annually to raise funding for LACO: benefiting their community engagement programs as well as the concert series so they may continue to bring music and joy to others.

What exactly is an a la carte series, you ask? From the press release: “Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) offers music lovers an opportunity to enjoy five intimate, elegant and entertaining “LACO à la carte” fundraising events pairing delectable international cuisine and exclusive musical performances in the spectacular private homes of the consuls general of the Czech Republic, Armenia and Austria as well as at Pacific Palisades’ historic Villa Aurora (Germany) and a magnificent private estate in Pasadena (China). Adding a special flourish to the season and illustrating that music truly knows no boundaries, each event features a different style of cuisine complimented by a salon performance by LACO musicians and guest artists.”

Out of the five programs, I was able to attend two: Germany à la carte, at the historic Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades, and Austria à la carte held at the Brentwood home of the Austrian Consul General. Each night featured salon performances – which is an old world carry-over term for a small group of musicians performing in an intimate setting. I would guess that no more than 80 people seemed to be in attendance at both the Germany and Austrian a la carte evenings, so I count myself lucky to have been able to be there!

Food for both the Germany and Austrian à la carte was provided by The Spot Gourmet.

Germany à la carte

Official Description: Concertmaster Margaret Batjer is spotlighted on the occasion of her 15th anniversary with LACO at a cosmopolitan evening showcasing the culinary riches of Germany hosted by Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades. This spectacular artists’ residence and historic landmark, set high on a hill overlooking the Santa Monica Bay, is described as a “true castle by the sea” by German novelist and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Mann, who, along with playwright Bertolt Brecht and filmmaker Fritz Lang, is one of many famed émigrés to have socialized there with such icons as Charlie Chaplin. Batjer performs a selection of works tailored to the enchanted evening.

It was quite the journey to get up to Villa Aurora as it was at the tippy top of a hill, the very opposite of where attendees had to park. A van took people in sets of six, winding up and up until we arrived at a very unassuming gate. Going through said gate delivered guests to a fabulous tiled courtyard of the Moorish artists retreat Aurora Villa.

LACO Germany a la carte
Descending to the Courtyard

My favorite architectural feature of Aurora Villa:

LACO Germany a la carte
Carved Wooden Beam Heads

Wine, beer and water was available alongside appetizers whizzing by on carried silver trays. It took all of my will not to just follow them into the kitchen, or wait directly outside of the kitchen door so I could pounce on each fresh tray.

LACO Germany a la carte
Hollywood Blonde Beer. Even better with lime.

LACO Germany a la carte
Salmon & Sour Cream on Savory Pancakes

LACO Germany a la carte
Cobblestone Chardonnay Wine

LACO Germany a la carte
Bratwurst with Prepared Mustard

The back patio offered spectacular views of Los Angeles, stretching all of the way to the Pacific:

LACO Germany a la carte

LACO Germany a la carte

As much as I’d like to stick around and admire the views, it’s time for the salon performance.

LACO Germany a la carte
Piano in the Salon

LACO Germany a la carte
Margaret Batjer on violin

Our program featured Margaret Batjer on the violin, performing Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in G major, Op. 30 in three movements, and Brahms Violin Sonata in D minor, Op 108 with four movements.

After the lovely music, it was time to gather to the library for the buffet set up by The Spot Gourmet.

LACO Germany a la carte

LACO Germany a la carte

LACO Germany a la carte

My favorites included sauerbraten, roasted potatoes, baby carrots, rustic breads and the black forest chocolate cookie (with gooey cherries in the center!). My lovely assistant (AKA Mom) loved the salmon and cabbage rolls with sauerkraut.

We sat among German-born, the Chamber Music enthusiasts and patrons of the Arts, and the wife of the German Consul General. Our conversation took an interesting turn with Helena, an 80-something year old tapestry artist who had words of female empowerment and encouragement for both my mother and I. Her doting younger husband stood by her all evening, a human shield as Helena shuffled along with her walker. They were the cherry on top of an already enchanting evening.

Austria à la carte

Official Description: Karin Proidl, Consul General of Austria, hosts an evening at the stately Austrian residence in Brentwood that illuminates the dazzling cultural and musical vibrancy of Vienna with a lively performance by LACO Principals Josefina Vergara, violin II, and Nico Abondolo, bass, who are also husband and wife. Vienna, with its delightful sidewalk cafes, pastry shops, prized beers and white wines and compelling art, music and architecture, is also celebrated as a haven for gourmands with the emergence of a sophisticated culinary movement, embracing fresh, seasonal and local produce.

The Austria a la carte evening was definitely more intimate, as it took place in proper residence, owned by the Austrian government to house their Consulate Generals for something around forty years now.

Consul General of Austria in Los Angeles Karin Priodl and LACO a la carte Chair Mahnaz Newman
Photo Credit: Jamie Pham | via Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations

Representing her country with a welcoming grace and an air of strength every woman in position of power ought to possess was Austrian Consul General Karin Priodl. My feminist senses were tingling just knowing this single, childfree woman was our hostess of the evening. I had to fight the urge to hug her and cry, “ROCK ON, SISTER! SOLIDARITY!” Refinement is an acquired skill for me.

The evening started with h’orderves, wine and conversation.

LACO à la carte: Austria
Cheese Toast

I’m probably the best frenemy of an event server; I’m always happy to see them, but I want them to put a halt to their procession through the crowd so I can get in a quality photograph. Unfortunately, most of my photos were taken as other hungry attendees descended on these quick bites.

LACO à la carte: Austria
Proidl Wines

Soon it was time to gather in the salon and enjoy the set by husband and wife duo: Josefina Vergara, violin II, and Nico Abondolo, bass. It goes without saying that they are dizzyingly talented, but Nico also charmed us with his wit and commentary throughout the performance.

LACO Principal Violin II Josefina Vergara and Principal Bass Nico Abondolo in performance
Photo Credit: Jamie Pham | via Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations

The program was broken into five sprightly pieces: GF Handel – Sonata VIII for violin in four movements; Francois Couperin – Troisieme Concert in A major from Concerts Royaux in five movements; JS Bach – Sonata for violin and Continuo in E minor, BWV 1023 in two movements; Bela Bartok – Selections from 44 Duos for violins, arranged by Nico himself; and Astor Piazzola – Five Tangos for violin and double bass.

All of that culture certainly whips up an appetite, so it was time to head over to the buffet and enjoy some Austrian food provided by The Spot Gourmet Catering.

LACO à la carte: Austria

LACO à la carte: Austria

LACO à la carte: Austria
Dessert Tier

Once again, Spot Gourmet knocks it out of the park with this authentic Austrian feast. As I was sitting among both Austrian-born and Austrian-descendants, I heard first-hand just what was spot-on. My favorites of the night include: pork loin with dijon, red cabbage salad, spaetzle with garnet yam and chocolate cake with kirsch.

For me, the highlight of these event is not the food (GASP!) nor the wonderful music, but the lovely people I sat with at each meal and got to know over food. Music and food: uniting foreign relations since the dawn of civilization. Well played, LACO. Well played.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra