Aaron Franklin & Adam Perry Lang @ Nick’s Cafe (Los Angeles, CA)

Franklin BBQ and Adam Perry Lang Collaboration
Nick’s Cafe
1300 N Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/10/15


I was super excited to take part in this recent collaboration between Adam Perry Lang (cookbook author, restaurateur and overall BBQ/meat expert) and Aaron Franklin, one of the most well-known BBQ personalities in the nation. Franklin’s namesake restaurant opened in 2009 and has quickly risen to generally be regarded as one of the best BBQ restaurants in the country, most notably for its Texas brisket. The line to get into Austin’s Franklin Barbecue is multiple hours long. Every single day. Rave reviews have come from all over the country; even President Obama visited last year (supposedly the first to ever cut the line). This year, Franklin has been named one of the James Beard Award finalists for Best Chef: Southwest, the first “barbecue chef” to have this distinction.

Given only 80 orders were going to be served at 6pm this evening, I figured my chances of getting in were very slim. Surely people were gonna wait all day for this, I thought. However, when I heard the line at 3pm was only about 10 people deep, I decided to go for it. Arriving at 3:45, I was able to get a ticket! Shockingly, the 80 ticket quota wasn’t reached until sometime after 5:00.


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David Kinch @ Rustic Canyon (Santa Monica, CA)

David Kinch (Manresa)
Rustic Canyon
1119 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 11/11/13

rc exterior

David Kinch, chef of two-star Manresa in Los Gatos, CA, is one of the most lauded chefs in the country. I’ve been to Manresa once many years ago and, quite frankly, don’t remember much about it. For some time now, I’ve been wanting to return to the restaurant to retry some of Kinch’s hyper-local modern American cuisine.

Earlier this week I sort of got my chance, as chef David Kinch cooked a collaborative dinner at Rustic Canyon. The chef was in town to promote his new cookbook (Manresa: An Edible Reflection) and reunited with Manresa ex-chef de cuisine Jeremy Fox, who is now executive chef of Rustic Canyon (with a significant stop at Napa’s Michelin-starred vegetarian Ubuntu in between). I dined on Fox’s food a few months back at Rustic Canyon and enjoyed it; combined with the addition of Kinch, I had high expectations for this meal.

rc interior

kinch menu

Each chef put together a snack and five courses for what really amounted to 12 different tastes. I thought the $95 price tag offered a lot of value for this kind of meal; drink pairing was an additional $45.

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Charles Phan @ M.B. Post (Manhattan Beach, CA)

Charles Phan (The Slanted Door)
M.B. Post

1142 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 8/12/13

Manhattan Beach Post (M.B. Post) has been a hot spot in the area since opening over two years ago (helping to spawn another restaurant, Fishing with Dynamite, earlier this year). Chef David LeFevre hosts a recurring guest chef series called “Can You Dig It?” that benefits partner charity Common Threads. For this iteration, he teamed up with chef Charles Phan of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door.

mb post exterior

Charles Phan is one of the old school notable Asian chefs in America; he’s best known for his flagship modern Vietnamese restaurant, The Slanted Door, which opened in the mid-1990s. His mini-empire now spans 7 restaurants in the San Francisco area. I don’t think he can be found in The Slanted Door kitchen as much nowadays, so this was an opportune chance to sample some of his cooking straight from the source. Chef LeFevre’s food has a lot of Asian influences and I was curious to see if he could adapt his cuisine to seamlessly fit in with Phan’s.

mb post interior

kitchen window

The menu for this evening was a collaborative effort, with 5 dishes being prepared by Phan and 3 by LeFevre for $75. Phan brought a couple of notable The Slanted Door plates as well as a few new ones. As far as I know, LeFevre’s dishes were making their first appearance here at M.B. Post.

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Timothy Hollingsworth @ The Strand House (Manhattan Beach, CA)

Timothy Hollingsworth
The Strand House: Culinary Masters Series
117 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 5/20/13

hollingsworth menu

Considering he spent the past 12 years at The French Laundry (the last 3+ years as Chef de Cuisine), represented America in the Bocuse d’Or (placing sixth in 2009, the best American placement to date), and won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in 2010, there are few chefs as young as Timothy Hollingsworth with such a strong resume.

On the heels of Douglas Keane’s (Cyrus) dinner at The Strand House, Hollingsworth was the next guest of the monthly Culinary Masters Series. Having just recently moved to Los Angeles, Hollingsworth will act as a consulting chef on The Strand House and sister properties (The Zislis Group) while figuring out what his own concept will be.

Being a huge fan of The French Laundry, I was excited to be a part of Hollingsworth’s first post-TFL meal. I wasn’t the only one; the dinner sold out in just a few hours – we were lucky to be one of the first ones off the waiting list. The menu was five courses, inclusive of wine pairing by B Wise Vineyard, for $200. A brief look around the dining room clearly indicated that plenty of wine would be served this evening – a solid indicator of a good evening ahead.

wine glass setup

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Douglas Keane @ The Strand House (Manhattan Beach, CA)

Douglas Keane (Cyrus)
The Strand House: Culinary Masters Series

117 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 4/29/13

strand house exterior

For just over a year now, Manhattan Beach’s The Strand House has been doing a monthly dinner hosting notable chefs from across the country. The Culinary Masters Series presents a unique meal; local chefs prepare something different from what they’re serving at their restaurants and out-of-town chefs provide an opportunity to try their food without having to travel. Past chefs have included Walter Manzke, Michael Cimarusti and Josiah Citrin locally, as well as Jonathan Waxman and Jose Garces from the out-of-town category.

douglas keane dinner menu

On this evening, Douglas Keane (of now-closed 2-Michelin star Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA) came to The Strand House. I’ve dined at Cyrus once before a long time ago (I think it was 2006) but don’t remember all that much from it. I was very excited to get a chance to sample more of Keane’s food. 5 courses were $100; wine pairings (Opus One, La Sirena, Seghesio, Byron) were an extra $50.

One cool aspect of this dinner was the fact that the winemakers (from each winery) showed up to discuss their wines and stories. Below, Michael Silacci of Opus One Vineyards.


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Graham Elliot @ Son of a Gun (Los Angeles, CA)

Graham Elliot
Son of a Gun

8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 4/9/13

son of a gun

Graham Elliot might be best-known for being a judge on MasterChef (alongside Gordon Ramsay and Joseph Bastianich), but he first made a name for himself in the kitchens of Chicago. He’s opened three restaurants in the city with his flagship being the eponymous Graham Elliot, which was awarded two Michelin stars in the latest guide. Elliot was in town to do some MasterChef tapings and decided to cook a two-night pop-up dinner, 5 courses for $100. Much cheaper than a flight to Chi-town. A wine pairing was available for $40 but we decided to go with the $30 cocktail pairing instead.


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