dineLA and the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival

As Mayor Anotonio Villaraigosa graced a stage yesterday near two of my favorite downtown restaurants; DRAGO and CHAYA, he gave us his mega-watt smile. He comfortably faced a crowd of chefs, media and VIPs welcoming everyone to the 5th dineLA week starting on October 2-7 and 9-14.

“dineLA is becoming tops in our city due to our diversity,” announced Villaraigosa. “Our chefs combine food from all over the world.” Mayor Villaraigosa enthusiastically revealed a new event to Los Angeles, the Food &Wine festival, with over 100 celebrity chefs, 300 wineries and 70 events from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Downtown LA and Hollywood. “Los Angeles used to be second, third, fourth or fifth in the culinary world, behind New York and San Francisco. Now we are becoming #1,” enthused Villaraigosa. “This event demonstrates the strength of our culinary community.” dineLA brings in about $6.2 million to the city of Los Angeles.

The Mayor introduced celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, to the podium to discuss more about the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival on October 13 -16. “Mayor, with your smile and ease shaking people’s hands, when you are finished with your term as Mayor of our city and after you are Governor, will you please be a maitre d’ at one of my restaurants?” solicited Puck.  As the crowd laughed, Puck shared that the first restaurant he worked at was three floors below where we were seated.

Puck is extremely excited to bring the Food & Wine event from Pebble Beach, CA to Los Angeles. The hope is to bring an additional $4.9 million impact to our city. With 70 events ranging from wine tastings to intimate dinners with celebrity chefs and a Wolfgang Puck Sunday brunch at the newly re-opened Hotel Bel-Air. All the proceeds from the tickets will go to the Saint Vincent Meals on Wheels foundation.  Puck has been involved with this wonderful philanthropy for 28 years.

dineLA begins October 2-7 serving lunch courses from $16, $22 or $28 and three-course dinners from $26 to $44. If diners enroll an eligible American Express card by scanning QR code or visiting sync.americanexpress.com/foursquare to sync to foursquare. Load your dineLA special discount by going on foursquare and check-in. Use your synced American Express card between Oct. 2-7 and Oct. 9-14 at one of the participating dineLA restaurants and receive a $5 statement credit when you spend $21 or more.

(Photo 1: Mayor Villaragoisa and Celestino Drago)  (Photo 2: Wolfgang Puck)

To learn more about these exciting culinary events, go to www.dineLARestaurantWeek.com. For more information on the Los Angeles Food  & Wine event October 13-16, go to www.LAFW.com.

Sister SAM and the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival

Today I had the privilege of meeting an incredible woman, Sister Alice Marie Quinn from the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. She makes sure that over 4500 home cooked meals are delivered daily to home bound seniors and younger people with cancer, MS and AIDS. The privately funded organization does not turn anyone away in need of a healthy meal, regardless of age, illness, disability, race, religion or ability to pay.

“Homeless can walk to get a meal, but the homebound are lonely and isolated,” shared Sister Alice Marie (aka Sister SAM). “We also bring meals to two schools in low -income communities. We feed the kindergarteners and first grade kids. They have pickier tastes, because they aren’t from the United States,” said SAM. “They don’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, purple colored yogurt or food cut into pieces,” declared SAM with a smile. “We find out what type of foods they will eat and deliver them to these children.”

Her five chefs arrive at 4:30 a.m. every morning to prepare the meals in a 16,000 sq. ft kitchen. “It’s really a lovely kitchen,” enthused SAM. “Some meals are cold, others are hot and some are fresh frozen.”

 Daryl Twerdahl, Executive Director of St. Vincent Meals on Wheel Foundation expressed to me “An organization in South East LA lost their government funding and had to close, leaving 140 homebound seniors without a meal.  They called SAM and she immediately accepted them into our program.”

World-class celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, heard about SAM and St. Vincent Meals on Wheels 28 years ago. He decided to get involved and has helped the organization raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year he is hosting the Los Angeles Wine and Food Festival on October 13 – 16, 2011 with a portion of the proceeds going to the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels.

The four-day festival will include 70 different events across Los Angeles (Santa Monica, Downtown, Beverly Hills and Hollywood), with over 100 celebrity chefs and 300 acclaimed wines. Some of the fun events include I Heart Champagne & Caviar at L’Ermitage – $195 per person and Wolfgang Puck – Live, Learn and Love at LA Live – $150 per person. Wolfgang uses his celebrity status for a good cause. He believes Sister Sam’s program is vital to those in need of a healthy meal in our community.

To learn more about St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, go to www.stvincentmow.org

To learn more about dineLA, click on www.dineLARestaurantWeek.com

To read a schedule of events at the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival, log onto:


A Sweet Ending at Gordon Ramsay’s – The London

The London in Los Angeles is home to     Michelin-rated Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant.  After a satisfying three course meal, we gazed at the dessert menu and opted for the pink lady apple tarte tartin. It’s one of their “serves two” sweet treats. Two plates arrived in a luscious brown butter caramel sauce, bathed softly in cooked apples on top of a chewy pastry crust. The vanilla bean ice cream accompanied this heavenly goody.

A great dessert to keep the memory of The London with you when you return home is the French Macaroons “To Go” package. These colorful sweet confectionary treats arrive in a tidy package. Since these meringue cookies are so light and airy, the luscious chocolate, almond and pistachio filling gives it a burst of sensuous flavors.

1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood (310)358-7788.

Celebrate Oktoberfest at Wirsthaus

Ladies quickly slip into your traditional Bavarian dirndls and men step into your leather lederhosen for a spirited Oktoberfest celebration with lively music, every Fri. and Sat. at Wirsthaus until October 8, 2011.

Finally, an authentic German restaurant with a beer garden, has opened in Los Angeles, serving hearty classic, comfort food in a friendly and lively atmosphere. The owner Bjoern Risse and his girlfriend Christy, the general manager run this place beautifully.

We admired the Spaten décor with hanging flags, as we peeked inside the new restaurant on La Brea. With only one table for two empty near the bar, we sat down and perused the menu.

All around us patrons were drinking huge liter steins of beer. We learned that last week the restaurant invited a member from the German Counsel, Michael Ott, to come by to tap the restaurant’s first ceremonial Oktoberfest keg of traditional Munich Hofbrau beer.

They offer almost twenty different beers on draft and at least 15 bottles of German beers. We opted to sample five different draft beers in 5 oz. glasses. It arrived on a wooden tray with the lightest colored beer, a Reissdorf Kolsch, next to it a Bitburger Premium and the last glass was a dark Weltenburger Dopplebock.

While deciding which of the eight appetizers to order, an adorable, Dolores Moore, walked inside with her red and white dirndl holding an accordion. She was the entertainment for the evening playing German songs enthusiastically. Throughout the evening she called out “Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi!” It’s a famous German drinking song saluting to good health.

Moore learned how to play the accordion at the age of five. She encouraged us all to lift our thick glass steins and sing aloud by calling out “Eins, zwei….g’suffa! In English, this translates to “One, two…cheers!”

We decided to order the Reibekuchon, six bite-size potato pancakes with mascarpone cheese and dollops of applesauce with a little sprig of dill. We also, ordered the Bretzel, a Bavarian pretzel with sweet yellow mustard. The mustard was heavenly. They serve it with their sausages too.

The menu lists 8 Hauptspeisens/Entrees. We ordered the Jaeger Schnitzel with sautéed breaded pork in a creamy wild mushroom sauce and a Geflugel Wurst, two large chicken sausages. Both are served with two side dishes. The choices include fried potatoes with or without bacon, mashed potatoes, fries with or without onions, potato salad, red cabbage, sauerkraut, cucumber salad or green salad. We tried the tangy red cabbage and potato salad.

The plates arrived filled with food. Not the healthiest meal in town, yet tasty, especially with a stein of beer.

Before leaving, we opted for a slice of homemade apple strudel. It was served warm with freshly cooked apples and a small side dish of cream.

Be sure to experience Wirsthaus during their Oktoberfest while the waitresses are still dressed in Bavarian clothing and the bartenders wear lederhosen and Bavarian Alpine hats.

Thursday nights at 8 p.m. they host “Around the World” ping-pong tournaments. Look for the paddles and ping-pong balls hanging up by the bar. Grab a stein of German beer and enjoy the friendly vibe.

Wirsthaus is open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. $ 345 N. La Brea Ave. (323)931-9291.