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Archive for July, 2015

Dead in the Water ..

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DineLA menu

DineLA menu

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Okay here we go. I’m starting off with a review on “Catch & Release” a seafood joint in Marina Del Rey. The name alone is rather strange, as “Catch and Release” implies you’ve caught a fish and decided to toss it back into the ocean. Something I did for years while learning to fish with my father in the lakes of his home state of Minnesota, and fishing trips from our house in Chicago to the lakes of Michigan and Wisconsin. Though for me, the stand out of these vacations was dinner at Win Schulers in Charlevoix, MI (the bar cheeze!! with warm bread ) and being able to operate the Pine River drawbridge and delicious walleyed pike and a bowl of fresh strawberries and homemade whippped cream! I was 8. Daddy had connections. After we left Chicago for Connecticut, I spent countless summers on Cape Cod, and in turn took my daughter to Wellfleet and Eastham for 18 yrs, every summer. So I think I have a handle on what constitues “good seafood”. This was not.

While I adore LA, so many of the “new chef driven concept restaurants miss the mark. I liken it to a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” . Everyone wants to go, gush over how wonderful it is, while clearly not realizing what it is your actually eating/ supposed to be enjoying. I could point my finger at a few well known food bloggers, but they arent worth my time. Oh hey look..who’s that fat ugly naked guy? It must be the emperor! Lol.

So on to my recent experience at “Catch & Release” in Marina Del Rey. I’ve been wanting to come eat here  as its a Jason Neroni project, and he has some LA pedegriee. This does not always make a good nor even a great restaurant.

We arrived on Thursday 23rd , during restaurant DineLA restaurant week. I had 2 pm reservations. We were on time, and though the restaurant was nearly empty, they sat us at a crappy tiny table in the back of the restaurant near the restrooms. Smooth move, not. The red chairs while cute are supremely uncomfortable.  We waited 10 minutes for anyone to acknolwedge us, or ask if we needed a drink. Water with lemon please. 10 minutes later water arives, no lemon, no ice.
We ordered the “ho -jo ” clam strips, off the regular menu, to start, and the DineLA gazpacho and salad.  As a kid in Chicago my parents always took me to Howard Johnsons for my birthday. I always ordered the clam strips and coconut cake. Always! A bit of HO-JO trivia, Jaques Pepin was chef and menu creator.

Upon ordering I purposely asked for the clam strips to come first, they brought everything at once.
Just plunked it down on the table, no “do you need anything else?” Nada, just walked off. The tartar sauce for the clams was awful and the clams so bready and salty we couldnt really tell if they were clams or not. Not a single belly in the bunch! One or 2 would have been a happy surprise. Could have been frozen clam strips from Ralphs. Seriously. At this point some Franks Red Hot or Texas Pete would have been a welcome addition.

Got the lobster roll, a mix of crab, lobster and shrimp apparently. Who could tell? It was shredded, like mush, no discerniable pieces of lobster at all. Hated the filling, loved the homemade parker house roll it was served on. That roll is a winner. Main problem here was besides the filling, the menu stated it was made with Dukes Mayo. Now Dukes is a southern mayo! No self respecting East Coaster would ever use anything but Hellmans! Dukes? Seriously? WTF! The pickles that were supposed to accompany the seafood salad roll were MIA. Given the size and quality of the seafood roll, I think next time I will just go to Gelsons or Santa Monica Seafood, buy a lobster, bring it home, cook it briefly, then butter poach it and griddle some kings hawIian rolls and make my own lobster rolls, enough for 2 with smear of hellmans and sprinkle of snipped chives. Connecticut style, the way a lobster roll was meant to be enjoyed.

My daughter ordered the DineLA salmon salad entree.. It was in a word, inedible.  2 super thin pieces of what looked liked deep fried salmon. She didnt eat it. I dont blame her, I wouldnt have gone near that even if it was free, it looked, literally like cat food. We were horrified. (See attached photo of salmon salad). As a Chef I can only assume that your cooks were saving the super thin tail pieces from whole salmon to use on the DineLA menu. Shame on you Catch & Release. The whole reason for DineLA is so patrons whom might not regularly frequent your establishment can come taste your wares at a reasonable price, hopefully enticing them to come back and spend even more money on your regular upscale menu. Based on our DineLA experience Its doubtful I will be back anytime soon. Though I always give a restaurant 3 chances before writing them off completely.

Dessert, the final course to grab you and hook you in (no pun intended) is also the last bite you remeber from your meal. It  was in fact, forgettable. The “Eton Mess” was a hot mess, though the promised warm molten lemon meringue was neither warm nor molten. Strawberries were delicious, but this is California, produce here is always stellar. The chocolate cake with expresso ice cream was just unpalatable, bitter, completely lacking in any form of sugar. A sad ending to an already sad dining experience.

Catch & Release, you have a great location and concept, just up your game ( and improve your staff and your food)! ps..your floor staff needs serious “people managment courses”. Completely unattentive and lacadasical. They were horrible. You have potential. I think. I will “re” review you in a month.

A few notes: chair pads for those horrible red chairs, salt and pepper on the table, plus hot sauce, even if its just tabasco. Slapfish has some amazing hot sauces, find out who makes theirs!! Wet naps for fingers . Take a page from Connie and Teds and offer a delicious New England clam or seafood chowder at lunch and your warm” house “made parkerhouse  rolls. You might just find your daily lunch buisness will increase. its the simple things, done well that bring a customer back.

After spending $74 on lunch for 2, to atuomatically tack on an 18 % service charge bringing my total to $86.36 for lunch and while I appreciate you want all your employees to earn a fair and decent wage, Trois Mec and Chez Panisse you are not.  If you are going to automatically include the tip at least stick to 15 % and let me decide if I want to leave more. This meal and service would have warranted a 10% tip. Tops.

Catch & Release, your not dead in the water just yet, but you might want to keep a life preserver handy just in case.

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Life , Death, Taxes and New Beginings

Wow. where to begin. I last blogged in 2012. Seriously?? Left LA, moved everyone back to my CT country homestead, spent a small fortune updating it to sell, and turned down a HUGE job as executive chef of New York City’s #2 catering company. Basically spent a few years just hibernating, recovering from the deaths of my parents and trying to figure out where to live, what to do next. Stay in CT where I own the home?, move to Manhattan, or head back west. Aspen, Denver, Boulder, Jackson Hole all crossed my mind. Arizona and New Mexico also made the list. Seattle and  San Francisco were number one contenders, but I kept feeling the pull of LA. Our year there was wonderful. In retrospect, we didnt stay long enough and the New Yorker in me was like, um nope. Im a born and raised New Yorker, East Coaster, we are perfectionists! But after 3 visits back to LA in the past year, I knew it had to be LA, for now or maybe forever.

So we’ve been enconsed in our new little house since April. Its a triplex, only 3 units, set way back off the street on North Hamilton in Beverly Hills. its a 2 bedroom/ 2 bathroom with formal dining room, huge living room, fireplace, sitting area and good sized kitchen.  House was built in the 30″s and has freplaces, high ceilings and crown moldings, its loveley and about 1,500 square feet, and has 7 count them, 7 closets! And 4 of those are walk in size.  Its as if im living back on my 3 acres in Wilton, CT its so quiet! My 2 neighbours are quiet, lovely, and keep bringing me presents, (welcome doormats, plants, etc) I in turn am feeding them! its a great trade off.

We can walk to the Beverly Center, Sushi Roku, Joans on third and Son of a Gun in less than 10 minutes, LACMA is a 15 minute walk and The Grove a good 20-25 minute hike, or a 5 minute drive. All in all the location is amazing. Restaurant row (La Cienga) is the next street over.

Gordie who scared the crap out of us at first, cause he got sick, is doing brilliantly under the care of Dr Jeff Werber. Mans a genuis , thinks our 17 yr old “old man” has lots of time left. Incredible.

All in all, this was THE right decision. Im looking at lovely craftsman bunglows in Larchmont Village, Beach houses in Venice and Marina Del Rey, and eyeballing houses in my old neighbour hood, Cheviot Hills. Its out there, the perfect home, waiting for me and Lauren, though eventually she will fly the coop, but i will have loads of guest space! So for now Beverly Hills is home and it feels like one too!

Next up I get back to blogging weekly, foodie issues, recipes, restaurant reviews and see where that takes me, I hope you, all my friends, come along for the ride.

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