TOP’s Guide to DTLA Dining

Where should we go for dinner? There’s no shortage of answers when you’re in LA.  In fact, here in my hometown, there are sometimes too many options. So I thought it might be fun to break this city down a bit. If Downtown LA is your destination, any one of these restaurants would be a sure bet when it comes to the quintessential downtown experience—and a damn good dinner.

Church & State

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Order like I do every time, and you will be happy: steak tartare with frites and aioli, escargot, any one of the amazing tarts (the pear and caramelized almond is delish!), and pig ears when they are on the menu. This Arts District gem serves seasonal, French-inspired cuisine and one hell of a cocktail to boot.

Mo-Chica

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The lomo saltado at Mo-Chica is an absolute must. Like all the food on this eclectic menu, this dish is packed with flavor. I love the modern spin on the traditional Peruvian comfort food this place serves, and also the stenciling they do with their drinks. Fancy!

Orsa & Winston

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Photo by DYLAN + JENI via Orsa & Winston

There are only a few establishments I know of that can legitimately be called “grown-ass” restaurants.  This is one of them.  Orsa & Winston does everything right, from top to bottom. The entrees have just the right amount of innovation without trying too hard and are always perfectly executed.  Service is attentive, informed, and warm.  The stemware is expensive and such a pleasure to drink from.  And the atmosphere is intimate and sexy. This one’s winning all-around.

Sushi Gen

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I love Sushi Gen for its no-frills approach to Japanese. No rolls, no gimmicks.  Just bomb-ass fish.  Come prepared for some serious sushi, and also a long wait. There’s always a wait.

Bäco Mercat

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Bäco is a totally made-up name for a flatbread sandwich, and it’s genius.  The oxtail is my personal favorite, but really, the flavor combinations are all pretty fantastic.  Lamb with raisin, pine nut and tomato? I’m in. And to go with the salty flavor of the packed bäcos, there’s a nice variety of house-made sodas, including ginger, strawberry, and orange-vanilla.  Because there is nothing better (well ,maybe beer) than a cold, sweet soda to wash down all that savory deliciousness.

Sweater Weather

Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s staying much warmer for much longer these days? I’m all for Southern California sunshine in big summer doses, but c’mon! IT’S NOVEMBER. I’m ready for a change.

Lately I’ve been pining for those crisp fall afternoons when it’s just me, my favorite sweater, and a big mug of tomato soup. Luckily, we’ve got some 70-degree days in the forecast, and we’re finally (finally!) starting to see real fall and winter produce, which was the inspiration for the Taste of Pace seasonal menu we’re featuring today.

Fall’s my favorite time of year, and I can tell you that planning a whole season’s worth of appetizers, main courses, and desserts was more fun than it was work. Some people daydream of tropical vacations this time of year, but me? I’m always fantasizing about the perfect seasonal plate. Here’s a quick peek at a few of my favorite dishes from the fall menu.

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pumpkin gnudi, brown butter, fried sage

fall menu

chicken liver mousse, pan de mie, port reduction, chive

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cider lamb osso bucco, crab apples
weiser sunchokes, parsnips, german butter potatoes
fried mcgrath red mustard frills

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pumpkin mousse, chai whipped cream, pepita cookie crumble

But wait! There’s more. We’ve also added these tasty selections:

  • potato crosnes latkes, teramosalata, apple, chive
  • red flame confit, marinated feta, crunch bacon, endive
  • warm spiced butternut squash jalapeño goat cheese, cilantro tart
  • turmeric thyme fennel seed- crusted chicken orange, oil cured olive, shaved fennel, garlicallspice nutmeg carrot puree

Planning a wedding or special event in the upcoming weeks or months? We’d love to delight you and your guests with some of our fall favorites. Click here for more catering information and to book the Taste of Pace team for your next event.

This is Halloween.

Hey, party people! Halloween’s just a week away. It’s comin’ quick, but you’ve still got time to make this the best Halloween ever. And believe me, it’s not hard to do. Here are five Taste of Pace tips you won’t say “boo” to.

1. Put a spin (or some glitter) on your jack-o-lantern

I’m still obsessed with metallic pumpkins and squash, but I may be forced to try some new creepy-cool colors this year—and maybe even some glitter! How much do you love these posh pumpkins?

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2. Choose a killer costume

The best costume of 2014 is definitely Maleficent (obs). Am I right? Yeah, yeah—you may see yourself coming and going at costume parties, but I’ve never been in the “too much of a good thing” camp. The Mother Plucker Feather Company is located right here in LA, and they can help you get your groove wings on. Check it!

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3. Mix up a mysterious cocktail

Your guests will go Gaga (another good costume choice) for this beer-based fall beverage. It’s made with pumpkin butter so, yeah—I’m in. Bottoms up!

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4. Toast something tasty

All done scooping out your pumpkin? Don’t you dare toss those seeds! Toast them instead. I love this spicy pumpkin seed recipe and think this grab-and-go snack is the perfect Halloween party food.

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5. Don’t forget the treats

These meringue bones are kind of adorable. And there’s a bonus: they’re super tasty, but also super simple to make. Dem bones, dem bones…sing along with me. And nosh along with me, too.

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Dinner and a Movie: Big Night

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I’ll admit it. I’m not always in a rush to see films about food. As the head of a catering company, the last thing I want to do at the end of the night is settle down into my sofa and watch a flick that reminds me of what I’ve been doing all day (or what I’ll be doing tomorrow). That’s why Big Night sat at the bottom of my Netflix queue for such a long time. Despite the fact that I’m a huge Isabella Rossellini fan, the story of two brothers trying to keep their authentic Italian restaurant afloat in 1960s Jersey sounded just a little…well, stressful. But eventually I realized that I could only put the movie off for so long. So I watched it. And you know what? I loved it.

The food in this film almost has a starring role itself. And as a chef, you can bet I appreciated the gorgeous shots of thickly sliced timpano, freshly-picked tomatoes, and sprawling antipasti. Big Night is really nice to look at, and it reminded me of all the things I loved about the cuisine when I lived in Italy for a year. It also reminded me of this pumpkin gnudi recipe, which is the perfect dish to serve while watching this film.

The American diners depicted in this film were so unsure of real regional Italian cuisine, so they were balking at things like risotto and antipasti. They wanted breadsticks and spaghetti and meatballs, all very Americanized versions of Italian food. So, this dish is an homage to the brothers’ passion for unapologetically real Italian food.

Like many of the meals served in Big Night, the prep work here is the most labor intensive. But to save some time, you can make the gnudi a day ahead of time and pop them into the freezer. You can also brown the butter a day ahead and then heat it up on a bain-marie (a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) so as not to brown it further on direct heat.  To serve this gnudi as an entree, I would add a bunch of parmesan cheese before garnishing with the fried sage.

Like a really amazing meal, Big Night is a film that won’t be soon forgotten. If it’s at the bottom of your Netflix cue, like it was mine, I’d highly suggest moving it to the top.

pumpkin gnudi, brown butter, fried sage
yields 60 pcs

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pasta:

6-8 oz. ricotta
10 oz. (approx) AP flour
6 oz. (approx) pumpkin, cooked
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch cayenne
salt to taste

sauce:

butter
salt

garnish:

20 leaves fresh sage
fry oil

Method:

Mix dry ingredients together for pasta.   Puree fresh cooked pumpkin with oil and water. Combine ricotta and pumpkin. Then add puree into flour.  Season with spices to taste.

For the butter:  Brown milk solids and season with salt to taste.

Fry sage and set aside for garnish.

Cook pasta and toss in butter.  Plate and garnish with sage leaf.