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I’m praying for Saint Martha

July 17th, 2014 No Comments

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Martha, the patron saint of cooks and servants, was known to have had the company of Jesus in her home and served him meals on several occasions.  In my mind, her food must have tasted heavenly.  I mean, the man came back for more! As for the modern Saint Martha, her dishes only appear to be divine.  Their flavor unfortunately is lacking.

But, let me explain to you why I think this little nook tucked away in a Koreatown strip mall will draw a righteous foodie crowd.

When you see the pictures and the presentation, you’ll understand that the people who work here take so much pride in creating and serving what they believe to be THE BEST. 

If they hear their critics cry, they will create better food.  It’s only been open a month.  So much time to grow!

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When you walk in, you are greeted by the #CooksAndServants themselves at this open kitchen.  Chef Nick Erven (of The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel and Tart) has gathered a band of heavily-bearded brothers that are too focused to be friendly.  That was not quite as jarring as the BLAZING light behind the counter that would unfortunately flood into the dining room.

Most people don’t care as much about atmosphere if they are going to be served phenomenal food.  I’ll capitulate to that every so often.  But if I don’t like my experience in the restaurant, my focus is disturbed.

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I didn’t get an exact count, but there are probably about 18 tables in the whole place.  I LOVE spots like this.  Instantly I thought about one of my favorite NYC Greenwich Villages cafes: The Little Owl.  You have to wait for at least an hour, that is, if they had availability at all!  Here, the eating area is close quarters and the tables seem small by LA dining standards.  No matter for most foodies though.  If it’s good, we’ll sit wherever.

After about a minute of looking around, I sighed.  As there are no windows, the lighting would stay exactly the same all night.  If that’s the case AND the kitchen light leaks into the dining space, they should really turn down the lights.  That’s an easy fix!

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The wine list is IMPRESSIVE.  Fifty wines from all over the world by the glass that you can order by the Taste, Glass, Piche, or Bottle so you can pair accordingly with the course.  Prices vary as much as the flavor profiles.  My waitress was properly educated and more than happy to discuss our preferences and bring samples.

As for the food….

We were instructed to order in courses and share what came out.  The menu lists the main ingredients of each dish which doesn’t prepare you for what is about to be served.

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Oh my goodness, the presentation was breathtaking.  I would have never guessed raw panacotta and tomatoes could be so beautiful!  Unfortunately my excitement for the dish diminished instantly after one bite….The amuse bouche of melon and flowers with a honey drizzle was so much more fun.  How could that be?!!!  Let me try another bite, this time with squash. The flowers were surprisingly tasty.  But still, overall terribly bland.  Ugh. I dared not ask for salt because I didn’t want to insult the bearded boys who had put so much effort into this.

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The grilled octopus that the waitress raved about “being crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside” was not, although thankfully tender (a feat in itself). And…it tasted like a salt lick.  Even my companion gaged.  As for the rice….Perhaps rice usually isn’t prepared like risotto because the grain gets too sticky instead of smooth.

Third plate’s a charm?

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Nope.  The “Summer Corn” was not the sweet white juicy kernels I as expecting.  This baby corn was covered in flowers, radish, crispy chicken skin, and a seasoning that tasted like Cheetos.  (I’m undecided whether that’s a good or a bad thing.)

At this point, I’ll be honest, we paid the bill and left.  What should have been a farm-to-table roller coaster ride was a more like a float down the sleepy river.  After an hour of nibbling, I was STARVING.

Like I said when I began this story, I’m hopeful for them.  Koreatown is booming and cool kids LOVE hideaways like this.  The whole experience drew my mind to Uchi in Austin, one of the best restaurants in the country.  Saint Martha has the same vision, passion, and soul to be a stand out, desirable farm-to-table like Uchi with Japanese.

Saint Martha 740 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 387-2300

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Westside LA welcomes two new restaurants

April 25th, 2014 No Comments

Living in Santa Monica, I really don’t have a TON of restaurant options west of 26th street and north of Wilshire.  On a regular basis, you’ll find me at:

  • Rustic Canyon (best seasonal f-t-t on the westside)
  • R+D kitchen (I call it my “Cheers bar”)
  • Hillstone
  • Kreation (healthy Persian and juice bar)
  • Milo + Olive (casual pizza)
  • FarmShop (seasonal delicious f-t-t)
  • Mercado (light Mexican)
  • BluePlate Taco (best Tex-Mex)
  • Fig (Best Happy Hour: 50% off from 5-6pm.  In the Fairmont Hotel)
  • Marmalade (Diner meets deli on Montana)
  • Toscana (Italian restaurant with “fun” westside bar scene)
  • Villetta (hand-crafted Italian that is often worth the expense)
  • Via Veneta (small, special occasion, authentic Italian on Main Street)

That covers Santa Monica and Brentwood. Please note Sawtelle and Venice are not included on this list. Thankfully in the last month we’ve had two new restaurants open and I love them both!

Art’s Table

Art's Table Santa Monica

On the corner of Montana and 10th Street, the old Babalou was totally renovated to be a modern, rustic wine bar and gastropub of sorts.  A month or so ago, the doors opened and the “tired of the same old food” neighborhood flocked into Art’s Table named after Art Verge, a Santa Monica local historian and business man, also father to Mark Verge (founder of Westside Rentals).  My gratitude goes to chef Mark Middleman who gives character to a very safe menu of  American classics.  They’re known for the burger, kale salad, and veggie sides.  You won’t recognize many of the wines, which I have found to be a good thing. Dinner is busy and you’ll see a line around the block for brunch.

Sloppy Joe Fries

Sloppy Joe Fries

Kale Salad

Kale Salad

Art's Table Burger

More pics on their instagram @ArtsTableSM.

Adoteca

Adoteca Brentwood

In the coming weeks, my peeps at Villetta and Toscana will discover they have some serious competition for best Italian fare with Adoteca on the block.  Literally all three are in Brentwood a stone’s throw from each other. When I saw this picture on Adoteca’s homepage, there was no question where our group was going for dinner. Adoteca scallops   It was no surprise the Michelin starred chef Antonio Mure and front of house manager Paolo Cesaro from Ado in Venice are the duo behind Adoteca.  Every dish delivered on our expectations.  Unfortunately, as a measure of etiquette, I kept my phone in my purse so I don’t have pictures to post. If you go, we all  insist you order the beet pasta with a quail bolognese.  It was hands down the fan favorite along with the creme brûlée.

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Holiday Survival Guide: Best New Bars of 2013

December 15th, 2013 No Comments

Mary Rambin Drinking a Beer

When I go home over the holidays, I like to try the new hot spots all of my friends have been raving about. Thrillist just posted this list that includes bars from all over the country.  They rarely lead me astray, so if you see your city, give their rec a shot!

Click here to read the full article with descriptions of each place.

Atlanta

Austin

  • CRAFT PRIDE
    What you’re getting: A Jester King seasonal
  • WHISLER’S
    What you’re getting: The Dealer’s Choice

Cambridge, MA

  • BEAT HÔTEL
    What you’re getting: A VFW Old Fashioned

Charleston, NC

THE RAREBIT
What you’re getting: Moscow Mule with homemade Sweatman’s ginger beer

Chicago

  • BILLY SUNDAY
    What you’re getting: Fernet & Cola
  • THREE DOTS AND A DASH
    What you’re getting: Poipu Beach Boogie Board; a Treasure Chest (if you’re a baller and/or shot-caller)
  • PUNCH HOUSE
    What you’re getting: Dusek Punch

Dallas

Houston

Las Vegas

  • VELVETEEN RABBIT
    What you’re getting: The Crucifix in a Deathhand; the Burning Bush

Los Angeles

  • NO VACANCY
    What you’re getting: A delicious gin cocktail
  • HONEYCUT
    What you’re getting: Any drink on their extensive list; the Toucan Sam if they’ve got it

Louisville

  • EL CAMINO
    What you’re getting: Whatever sweet tiki drink Susie Hoyt wants to make you

Miami

  • DROGERIE
    What you’re getting: The Pain Killer

Milwaukee

Minneapolis

Nashville

  • PINEWOOD SOCIAL
    What you’re getting: The Honesty of Constant Human Error

New Orleans

New York

  • TØRST
    What you’re getting: A beer you’ve never heard of before that’s probably been barrel-aged
  • DEAD RABBIT
    What you’re getting: Morning Reviver
  • AMERICAN WHISKEY
    What you’re getting: Remember the Maine

Oakland

Portland

San Diego

San Francisco

  • TRICK DOG
    What you’re getting: Eye of the Tiger
  • MIKKELLER BAR
    What you’re getting: A crazy sour beer you’ve never heard of

Seattle

Washington DC

  • 2 BIRDS 1 STONE
    What you’re getting: The Daily Punch
  • BLUEJACKET
    What you’re getting: James & the Giant; the Stroppy pale ale

 

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Check out your new favorite taco, NYC.

November 7th, 2013 No Comments

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You will find it here:

Ottos Tacos ExteriorOttos Tacos Loca

Specifically at 141 Second Ave between St. Mark’s and 9th.  You know, where tons of great chefs are opening up their casual counterparts.  In this grab-n-go taqueria, you’ll find these guys (Chef on the left, my long time friend Otto on the right):

Otto and Chef Jose

Serving up this seeming simple but blow your mind flavorful menu (click to enlarge):

Ottos Tacos Menu

 

Don’t get dressed up or wear heels cause you’re walking in starving and taking tacos out to devour.  There are a few seats, but I expect once word gets out, they’ll fill up fast.

When you go, tell Otto I sent you and give hime a big hug for me!

Very proud of you my man.

Mary Rambin Otto's Tacos

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Eat, drink, and be Mary in Atlanta: a solid guide to Buckhead

October 4th, 2013 No Comments

leaves turning in autumn - atlanta, ga

 

Before my friend Becky went to Atlanta for work this week, she asked me for recommendations of places to eat, drink, and be…well, Mary, while in Buckhead.  My response: of course I can whip up a list for you!  Find it below pretty much cut and pasted from the email I sent her.

A day later it hit me it’s Autumn in Atlanta right now.  My favorite time of year there.  The heat has subsided; the kids are back in school; and the city is painted in red, orange, and yellow.  The trees above line my old street…Seems like a world away now.

Mostly I miss my girls: Susan, Libby, Renee, Margaret Ellen, Prentiss, Erin, and Missi.  A big hug to y’all.

My favorite places to sit at the bar and eat dinner:

 
– Cibo e Beve: This was my local hangout. Casual and fun Italian.  Tell Justin the bartender I say hello.
Local Three:  Farm to table.  Considered one of the best restaurants in ATL.
– Seven Lamps:  In the Shops Around Lenox.  Same chef as One Midtown Kitchen. Has a late night menu.
Bones: Best steak in ATL, older crowd, great wine by the glass.
– Houston’s on Peachtree or the one near Lenox Mall. always fun people sitting at the bar.
LPC: Upscale Italian and worth the $$.
10 Degrees South: go for the good time, not necessarily the food, sit on the back patio
St. Regis Bar: just drinks, quite a scene
Tin Lizzy’s: on Roswell and Piedmont: great chips and salsa, good mexican, super casual
– Aria:  for a nicer dining experience.
– Canoe: a Buckhead classic when you want to sit outside and just relax by the creek
 

During the day:

 
Cafe Jonah:  casual and healthy, cute cafe in an old house.
Dtox Juice : fresh juices. the kale salad and green smoothie is to die for.  Tell the owner Shannon I sent you!
Cafe at Pharr: quick and easy. get the chicken salad.
Super Jenny: best turkey chili EVER! you might have to wait in a line for it.
– Anis: if you’re looking for wine at lunch :)
Blue Moon Pizza: fresh, quick, and easy. you can order small pies or even by the slice.
– Farm Burger:  best burger in my opinion. they have turkey and veggie as well, soooo good.
Arden’s Garden – juice and salads to go.  kale Salad is amazing.
 

If you’re willing to go downtown:

 
– JCT Kitchen or Bar: a solid choice for great food and people
Bacchanalia: the best restaurant in ATL, hands down, Italian will blow your mind)
One Midtown Kitchen: Another ATL classic. one of the first farm-to-table spots.
Barcelona:  One of my favorite places for a fun dinner. great crowd! awesome food and wine.
– Lureupscale and trendy seafood in a lovely space.
– Ecco: only go and sit at the bar or outside.
Empire State South: farm to table, one of the best of ATL.  Known for it’s cocktails as well.
 

In Decatur:

 
No. 246 (my fave) or Iberian Pig for dinner.
 

Other stuff you need to know:

 
 BLAST900 - Tell Missi you’re a friend of Mary Rambin, she’ll squeal :) Give her a big hug for me and then get ready for the workout OF YOUR LIFE!
– Chastain park, 3 miles around, a beautiful way to end the day
Atlanta Hot Yoga:  If you dare, go to one of Jason or Octavia’s power classes!
– Mani/Pedi: Trina Nails - call ahead for Tracy.  Tell Tracy and Trish I say hi.

 

**Please note I haven’t been in ATL for a while and new places open up monthly.  For a current Top 10 list, go here.

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“Where should we go for dinner tonight?”

September 13th, 2013 No Comments

Thrillist iPhone App

 

When the questions arises, I can NEVER think of the places on my wish list or Eater’s hit list.  No more guessing or driving around in circles with the new Thrillist iPhone app.  

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What’s more important in a restaurant: food or scene? – RivaBella Review

August 23rd, 2013 No Comments

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This is not a new question, but one you should consider if you want to go to the new LA hotspot RivaBella. IDG (the group that runs Boa and Katana) and chef Gino Angelini took over the old Hamburger Hamlet on West Sunset to open this Italian outpost for scensters.   The interior design and decor is quite beautiful.  Cozy but chic.  The people are arguably even prettier.  But the food is average at best. Coming from Gino Angelini of one of my all time favorite Italian joints (Angelini Osteria on Beverly), this was a huge disappointment.

 

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Jonathan Gold from the LA Times says, “RivaBella makes ordinary Italian perfect.”  That’s a stretch for me, especially at those pricepoints.

Go for drinks; enjoy the scene; then get the H outta there.

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There’s a new one in your hood. Have you tried it?

June 27th, 2013 No Comments
The Smile, NYC

The Smile, NYC

It seems like every time I open a magazine, there’s a feature on an up-and-coming food city.  That city is different EVERY time.  Which means, it’s likely you live in one and have great new restaurants opening up around you….daily!  So it’s time to ditch the old favorites and try a new spot. (Randall, that means you too.)

I wrote about Baltimore and Oakland just last week.  Denver and Houston are topping lists.  Atlanta has been a breading ground since Richard Blais won Top Chef.  Chicago, with 2 years of Michelin ranking under its belt, has been killing it with foodies.

What I’ve found is that no matter where I am, I can always find an exceptional farm-to-table restaurant.  Pretty much in any neighborhood.  I know “Farm-to-Table” sounds cliche, but can we really argue with chefs who are using locally sourced produce and preparing it in a clean and creative way?

New FTT restos are popping up on every corner in NYC and LA.  Below are 2 in each I think you’ll enjoy as much as I do. All of them are small and super cute, which means a reservation is a good idea.  If there are only two of you, you could luck out on a bar seat (except at The Smile).

In the comments below, go ahead and share your new favorite so we can give it a shot if we’re in your neighborhood.  Thanks in advance!

 

(To see the images larger, click the pics.)

 

NEW YORK

The Smile, 26 Bond Street, NYC, (646) 329-5836 thesmilenyc.com

Quick note: celeb scene is almost as good as the food.  If you do go to The Smile, say hello to Lily from my SoulCycle training group!

 

Tiny’s 135 West Broadway TriBeCa NYC (212) 374-1135 TinysNYC.com

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Willie Jane, 1031 Abbot Kinney, Venice CA (310) 392- 2425 WillieJane.com

 

 

Rustic Canyon,1119 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, (310) 393-7050 RusticCanyonWineBar.com

Rustic Canyon has been around for a while, but they just changed chefs.  Now at the helm is Jeremy Fox who is was previously at the only vegetarian restaurant to ever earn a Michelin star (Ubunto in Napa).  We at there last night and his food was fresh and extraordinary.

 

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