Date Night: Ink

Last week’s date night was a special one. I’ve explained that I’m a fan of Michael Voltaggio’s.  I made reservations weeks ago (because that’s what you have to do to get in) for his new restaurant on Melrose Blvd, Ink.  All week long I was buzzing with excitement.  Will they be snotty there (I hate that)?  Will Mr. Voltaggio himself be on the line cooking?  Will I hob nob with the celebs?  Thursday couldn’t arrive soon enough.Ink Date Night

Anticipating that Ink would be a bit edgy, like Voltaggio himself, I kept my outfit to the theme.  I rocked leopard print jeans, tuxedo blazer, skin hugging silk cami, a Dior bag that I picked up last year with some Vegas winnings, green glass statement ring, and heel-less suede Mary Janes from that crazy shoe artist, Jeffrey Campbell .  (How do you walk in heel-less shoes you ask?  Very carefully).  Here’s a peek at the outfit.

As for Ink, first I’ll tell you this is a place to see and be seen. We walked in at 6:30 on the nose and were seated right away.   The restaurant’s interior and exterior are gray gray gray, waiters wear gray aprons (which makes them seem more approachable and not snobby at all, thankfully), flatware sits atop gray rocks, food is served on gray dishes.  I think Mr. Volt has a favorite color.

I happily spotted the man himself on the line from the peekaboo window to the kitchen. (Incidentally, I hear if you dine earlier you’ll have a better shot of seeing him on the line as he tends to leave before the end of the dinner shift).  Not wanting to miss the action, I took the seat facing the kitchen, while Big N faced the restaurant. He tells me that he spotted lots of celebs: Ashlee Simpson, Jon Favreau, Martin Scorcese, and Jamie Lynn Spears, to name a few, though I’ll have to take his word for it because he only told me who he spotted after they left (maybe he didn’t want me to embarrass him with my rubber neck). That’s my husband for you.  But I forgave him as soon as the food started arriving.   [A couple sitting next to us (the man was a character actor I haven’t yet been able to identify by name), saw me eyeing the expensive bottle of Burgundy he brought with envy and poured us a glass.  Actors are nice.]

Ink focuses on small plates with molecular gastronomy flair. The menu contains just 16 of them (which change with the seasons), ranging between $9 and $23, and are arranged from lightest to heaviest and served in the order they appear. We ordered 7 between us, which was plenty.

Starting us off was the charred avocado, sliced thin and wrapped around sweet Dungeness crab and charred with a brulee torch.  It was accompanied by whipped cream flavored with fish sauce, crispy mushroom crackers, and caramelized maitake mushrooms.  Not a bad start to the evening.  The crackers complemented the creamy avocado and the crab was delicate and fresh.

The next dish was probably my favorite of the evening: young carrots with their roots, rolled in coffee-cardamom “soil” and dipped in a spicy coconut curry sauce, all sitting on top of nitrogen frozen coconut milk ice.  The dish was beautifully presented and arrived at the table still smoking like dry ice.  The carrots were perfectly al dente and the flavors were surprising yet not too far-fetched.

Next was Big N’s favorite, so much so that he actually ordered another plate of it for his dessert so he wouldn’t have to share it with me.  This was the beef tartare, finely chopped raw beef with hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri, cheesy crackers, and nitrogen frozen horseradish.  The combination of flavors in this dish truly leaves no room to debate Mr. Voltaggio’s brilliance.  The goal was to get a little bit of each of the elements in every bite to fully appreciate what a party the combination created in my mouth.

Next was the lamb neck, served with chickpea poutine (little chickpea sausage thingees), yogurt curds, and chive puree.  This dish slightly missed with me.  I thoroughly enjoyed all of the side elements, but the lamb itself was a little sweet and too sticky, as if it was overreduced in the sauce.

The sea bass (not pictured), with shishito peppers, kelp pasta, fennel, and saffron-mussel broth, was nearly flawfless, and of course perfectly cooked.  Followed by the pork cheeks, with charcoal oil, a single long “macaroni” stuffed with what I believe was fontina cheese, and sauteed leeks with crispy leek roots.  Again, the sides of this dish were perfect, but the pork cheeks were a little gamey and not all that exciting.

For dessert, while Big N was enjoying his second helping of tartare, I ordered the apple.  Anybody who saw Voltaggio’s season of Top Chef knows the man can put together a dessert, and this one paired classic apples, caramel, and walnuts in an exciting and amazing way.  The apples were simply uncooked balls of Granny Smith, with a generous helping of creme caramel topped with a vanilla (coconut?) sabayon, apple gelees, and walnut crumble.  Heavenly.

Though two of our seven dishes weren’t my favorite, overall Ink delivered.  I would have been more disappointed with my experience if every dish was perfect.  I actually appreciate that Ink takes risks, while realizing that not every dish will please every palate.  It makes me want to return when the menu changes with the seasons so I can try more of Mr. Voltaggio’s new haute American cuisine.

Note- if you decide to go, a friend went to Ink the same week I did and highly recommends the Octopus, a dish we didn’t order this time around.

Ink is uber trendy at the moment, so be prepared to plan ahead.  You have the best shot of getting a reservation nearly a month in advance, which is a good thing right now because I hear that starting in January Ink will be featuring a chef’s tasting menu for about $70 per person, plus $45 extra for wine pairings.  I can never resist a good tasting menu.

Date Night: Red Medicine

My brilliant husband came up with a brilliant idea.  Less than thrilled that my restaurant job has me working every Friday and Saturday night, he instituted a mid-week “date night” so the two of us can sit across the table, look at each other, and reconnect.  Plus it gives us the opportunity to dine at a hip new restaurant and wear our Sunday best, opportunities that are few and far between for this momma.  Our maiden date night voyage: the controversial Red Medicine in Beverly Hills.

First, a plug for the outfit** because what’s a good date night without a flirty outfit? Date night outfit
The accessories

Outfit in place, we dined at Red Medicine, the restaurant that made headlines when upon first opening the chef photographed a notoriously anonymous food critic without her permission then refused her service.  To top it off, they posted her picture online so other restaurants could do the same.  Pretty ballsy move for executive chef Jordan Kahn, whose pedigree includes French Laundry and Per Se, though I didn’t learn of the controversy until after dining there.

The concept purports to be a loose spin on Vietnamese cuisine.  From the menu we ordered the spring rolls, late season legumes, ocean trout, lamb, and Wagyu beef.  The spring rolls were delicious, but for $15 for one roll cut in half, I expected it to be a little more earth shattering.

What sets this restaurant apart from others is the artful plating technique, where root vegetables and exotic greens are deliberately placed with tweezers in a way that resembles a mini rain forest on top of the dish.  Nearly all of the dishes employ this technique in some capacity, so though clearly impressive, it becomes expected and thus overused as each successive dish arrives table-side.

The late season legumes made sliced radishes and peas look and taste more extravagant, as the stunningly colorful plate tricks the mouth into believing even ordinary and mostly raw vegetables are a prized delicacy.

The house cured ocean trout was another winner, accompanied by a cotton candy like styrofoam that complimented the smoky flavors of the trout.  I had never eaten lamb belly before, and the lamb dish was a vision in red (though it didn’t photograph well), and was tender and juicy, though a bit crowded by the plate’s other elements, which became lost in the melee.  The miss of the evening was the Wagyu, which of course was the most expensive item we ordered.  The small 2″x3″ brick shaped cut was under seasoned and hence it fell flat.

For dessert we ordered the coconut bavorois, presented in a low ball glass that made the layers inside look like an ant farm terrarium.  It arrived about 1 minute after we ordered it, a sure sign that the dessert was made and assembled completely in advance, but it was perfection.  As Mr. Kahn’s background lies in pastry, I expected the desserts to be stellar and this one did not disappoint with its creamy custard like coconut pudding layer and coffee/chicory flavored “dirt” crunchies.  Alas it didn’t photograph well.

Service was quick but our waiter was a little dry and showed no personality outside of his functional duties to take and bring orders.  The ambiance is hipster to say the least, but loud, very loud, so don’t expect to bring a date here for a romantic eatfest.  For a place that’s open until 2 a.m., it’d be interesting to see if the cacophony and energy continue throughout the night.

I can recommend Red Medicine for the overall unique experience, though I’m positive I won’t be braving La Cienega very often for return trips.

*The Outfit: Maeve silk top from anthropologie (I paid full price but it’s now on sale), vintage chevron BCBG tulip skirt, Calvin Klein pumps.
**The Accessories: Stuart Weitzman clutch, Amrita Singh earrings, Michael Kors rose gold watch, Murano glass ring that I bought in Venice ages ago

Dressed for (anti)success: an outfit to quit by

I don’t remember the outfit I wore when I successfully interviewed for my first job as an attorney, but I can guess I rocked a polyester blend suit, likely from Petite Sophisticate, with a patterned silk undershirt, and sensible pumps.  As a broke law student, Petite Sophisticate was the only place you could buy a cheap suit that fit my size 0 frame (circa 2002, things have changed a little since then).  Unfortunately, I vividly remember my interview over lunch in San Francisco, while waxing eloquent about living in Beijing at the exact moment my potsticker slipped from my chopsticks and fell into a vat of soy sauce, splashing brown bits on the suits of 3 of the 4 attorneys lucky enough to be sitting at my table.  Despite my clumsiness, they took a chance and hired me anyway; maybe they found my blunder charming.

I spent the next 7 years learning the ropes, building skills, and trying to convince myself that my brain was actually worth the money they were willing to pay me for working 10-14 hours a day at my desk.  Somehow I lucked out, and managed to work with people who believed in me more than I ever could.  Life kept going, my career kept growing, and before I knew it I had a husband, a newborn, and a whole new set of priorities.  Suddenly the career I worked for my entire life didn’t seem to fit in my life any longer.  I took an extended maternity leave to sort these feelings out, and started a part time culinary program at Le Cordon Bleu.  On Monday, I took a leap of faith and said farewell to Tamara, Esquire.

quitting-time-1-of-1 Before heading to my Downtown office, it dawned on me that I may be slipping into business casual attire for the last time, especially now that I’ve joined the checkered pants wearing counter-culture.  I took a nostalgic tour of my closet, still filled with blazers, sweater sets, flouncy skirts, slacks, suits, gigantic purses for carrying briefs, heels, and more heels; clothes I no longer need but can’t bear to donate, just yet.  I may have abandoned a career in the professional world, but I’ll be damned if I abandon my respectable biz-cas wardrobe.  I snapped a photo of the quitting outfit*, hoping it wouldn’t be the last time I have an occasion to dress like a career girl.

7 years from now I may decide that taking an indefinite hiatus from my career was just plain stupid.  I’m putting “successful career” on hold to pursue playing with food and playing house.  Walking into my son’s room this morning and seeing him smile and laugh at me while standing in his crib ready to face the morning, I know I made the right decision.  For now.

*The quitting outfit: White blazer and gold sequin purse, vintage BCBG.  Skirt, Zara, purchased in Rome ages ago.  Platforms, Prada, purchased in Milan.  Gold headband, Asos.com.  Short gold chain, custom made for my wedding party.  Long gold chain, some cheap thing.

I dub thee Momma Chic: Summer Fashion for Moms

I spent the better part of my legal career putting together a respectable business casual wardrobe.  I’m the kind of style masochist that actually misses wearing 4 inch high stilettos paired with pencil skirt to walk half a mile to the court house.  Unfortunately these days I spend most of my time rocking decidedly unstylish checkered pants while attending LCB.  But on the weekends when I’m not wearing my favorite uniform complete with skull cap, I like to pretend that I still have some style.  I’ve had to retire the business casual wardrobe because it doesn’t exactly mesh with a baby on the hip, so I’m cultivating a new style that I’ve dubbed “Momma Chic.”

Momma chic means that I’ve traded in my stilettos for platforms (I’m short mind you, so I absolutely refuse to give up heels, baby or no baby), my pencil skirt for boyfriend fit cropped chinos, and my leather Miu Miu brief bag (I have this one, which I adore but had to retire, boo) for a Storksak leather diaper bag and Chloe mini crossbody.  Thankfully, I still get to accessorize though Fin is getting a little grabby with the necklaces, and right now I’m loving everything rose gold, fun scarves (I splurged on an Hermes with recent Vegas winnings, hee), and a darling calendar bracelet from Dalla Nonna that shows the birth date of my little Fin so I always have a memento of him with me.  Here I am working the momma chic look as Fin and I stroll through the vines in Napa on our recent mini-break.  Fin really is the perfect accessory in his Osh Kosh overalls and newsboy cap.

I think far too many moms forget about their own well being as soon as the baby arrives.  Not this shopaholic!  Call me crazy but I don’t think it’s selfish to still splurge on girly impulses once in a while.  After all, we moms have to take care of ourselves too.  Nobody wants to put up with a crabby puss.  Shopping=happy mommy=happy family.

 

Here are a few of the pieces that I’m loving this summer.

Momma Chic

 

1) Elizabeth and James pullover shirt
2) J Crew short sleeve whisper linen shirt
3) Hat Attack gold hat
4) Frenchi cami tank
5) Rebecca Minkoff clutch handbag
6) Dalla Nonna Calendar Bracelet
7) J crew cropped pants
8) J Crew summer linen pants
9) MICHAEL Michael Kors michael kors jewelry
10) Hermes silk scarf
11) Stuart Weitzman crochet sandals
12) Leifsdottir elastic waist shorts
13) L.A.M.B. platform shoes
14) Storksak Elizabeth Leather Diaper Bag

 

 

And Fashion To Boot: Mini crossbody bags

I’ve made an executive decision.  This blog is where I express my passions in life (food, wine, cooking, photography, crafts, projects, family, all things domestic).  Up until now, however, I’ve largely ignored what is arguably my girliest passion: shopping!  No longer.  It’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to.  So here goes.

If you haven’t been paying attention, trending hard right now are mini crossbody bags and I adore them all.  These bags are particularly convenient for the new mother who is already carrying a gargantuan bag full of baby’s stuff with no room leftover for momma’s stuff.  I prefer to travel light whenever possible and need a bag just big enough to carry mini wallet, phone, keys, new mini-camera (that’s another post), and my favorite lip balm.  (Baby’s bag, on the other arm, must hold: bottles, diapers, wipes, toys, food, snacks, utensil, bib, burp cloth, change of clothes, blanket, jacket, trash baggies for poopie diapers, and hand sanitizer, which explains why it needs to be gargantuan).

Below are some of the mini crossbody bags I’m crushing on most.  I’m the happy owner of 2 of the bags below. Hee.

Which 2, you ask? Why, these 2:

mini-cross-body-1-of-2 mini-cross-body-2-of-2

The Chloe Marcie Mini is made of buttery soft pebble leather and holds more than it seems. Plus it’s easy access. The natural bag on the right is by Irish designer Orla Kiely. It’s made of stiff leather and I just love the intricate leather binding on the front. Don’t mind my painfully white legs. I’m opposed to tanning for vanity reasons (the sun ages, period, but I really have no excuse to forego the self tanner, that’s just laziness). And the shoes are Seychelle’s Wheel of Fortune Sandal, another recent acquisition. Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I completely have to stop buying fun stuff for me, right?

I’m glad you agree.