Friday, November 18, 2011

Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

With a kaleidoscopic arrangement of food trucks, trendy clubs, and upstart restaurants, Abbot Kinney street in Venice, just on the peripheral of Santa Monica, is a great place to venture out to try something new. Catching wind of a restaurant opening, was enough to ride the bike over to see what was going down.
The name of the restaurant, in a total departure from the uber trendy, one word, one syllable, seemingly obligatory spectacle that has overtaken the restaurant and club scene, business partners, head chef’s, and long time friends, Brian Dunsmoor and Kris Tominaga went with something totally opposite - Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing. The cuisine is a departure from both chef’s backgrounds as well, which is in fine dining. Both chefs agree that foams and purees in the shape of swans are not in this restaurant’s future. 
Chef Brain explained to me that Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing can be best described as non pretentious, country style comfort food, as he breaded a piece of head cheese ready for the fryer.
“It’s not fat kid food, either!” chimed in Chef Kris
He elaborated having a good relationship with local growers, farmer’s market vendors, and never flying in produce is essentially Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’s mantra. With almost almost all of their wine and beer coming from California, the restaurant is keeping their libations in state as well. 
“The soul of our food is good simple ingredients, and keeping it super local” explains Chef Brian.
Over countless coffees, beers, and years of collaborating Chef Brian and Kris’s dream has finally come to fruition. For these two Venice natives it was really Abbot Kinney Street or bust. With the soft opening, November showcases a taste of what is to come. Their full menu and official opening will happen in December. If you want to take a bite out of Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, come on down to Venice and they will be happy to find you a seat.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

California Monster Salad

Pinkberry meets The Farmer’s Market, at California Monster Salad you will feel like a kid in a candy store- a very mature, healthy, sugar free candy store. Fun none the less!Proprietor Daniel Radell has certainly created something special with the one and only California Monster Salad just east of the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and 4th Street. Essentially, California Monster Salad is a high-end, create your own salad place. They boast an array of unique as well as standard salad toppings, and also offer a collection of signature Monster Salads too. While it may seem commonplace to have a green eatery in the middle of the high food IQ city of Santa Monica, it is the details that separates the California Monster from your standard salad store.
From the eco-friendly paint down to the bio degradable forks and salad bowls, lettuce is not the only thing that is green at California Monster Salad.  Another nice touch is, as you enter, it is almost a guarantee you will be offered a sampling of one of their daily made juices. Some of their beverage mainstays are iced teas, kale lemonade, and my favorite, the cucumber mint lemonade. The California Monster Salad also offers a delivery service. So no more ordering salads from Domino’s Pizza, a better option has arrived in town. The restaurant also offers homemade breads, soups, and organic gluten-free desserts. Aside from fresh drinks, soups, and desserts the real meat and potatoes at this place are their salads. Offering ten or so signature salads with fun names like the Greek Bikini, Kalifornia Kale, and Mermaid Medley are all tempting options, but it is the create your own Monster Salad which is a customer favorite.  
The first step is to select one of five different greens, which are all stowed away in large salad style humidors. From the popular Romaine to the hearty Kale, you also have the option to mix and match your greenery. Step two is select up to five different toppings. With almost fifty toppers to choose from, this is your opportunity to really get nuts, literally. The third and final step is to select your dressing. Knowing that a dressing can make or break a salad, California Monster Salad puts a great deal of emphasis in making things right.
“You can make a beautiful salad and it can be ruined with a dressing. We make sure everyone taste the dressing so it is exactly what they want.” Explains owner Daniel Radell
With no added salt, sugar, mayonnaise, California Monster Salad whips up their dressings daily rather than using any bottled brands. Ironically enough, due to great popularity, the restaurant will be bottling their stuff in the near future.
With so many salads to choose from, in an ‘only in Santa Monica’ moment, I went with the salad in a bread cone option. Chef Stacey tossed up their signature Coastline Chicken salad, pouring it into a cone-rolled flatbread. In that moment holding my salad-cone, I was that 31 year old yoga practicing, documentary watching, bill paying kid in the health conscience, eco friendly, high fiber candy store. It was one of the best salads I have ever had and certainly the greatest salad cone I have ever eaten in my entire life. The California Monster Salad is truly a new gem here in Santa Monica.       

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Earth Wind And Flour

It was thirty years ago that Dennis Klempner and his business partners were sitting around a table banging their heads together trying to figure out a name for their new restaurant on Wilshire blvd. Through the ordeal, a song by Earth Wind and Fire came on the radio, the proverbial lightbulb flickered on, and Earth Wind and Flour was born.  Pizzas and pastas being the featured items on the menu, flour is indeed the foundation to this Santa Monica staple. 
Dennis gained an affinity for Italian eating from his upbringing. Surprisingly enough, origins of the Klempner name are not Calabrese, Neapolitan, nor Florentine. Dennis is not from ‘the old country’ but when he was fifteen, he learned a thing or two while working at an Italian restaurant in The San Fernando Valley called the Pizza Peddler.  Fast forward to today, and you will find Earth Wind and Flour loaded with Italian-American offerings. 
Besides the obligatory pizza and pasta specialties, Earth Wind and Flour also has a variety of sandwiches, salads and burgers. They also have a full service bar adjacent to the dining area, and advertise $5 fru fru Martinis as well as your standard selection of beers. The pizza is made ‘Boston Style’ which can probably be best described as a cross between New York thin crust and a Chicago style deep dish. It is baked in a pan, so the outside crust rises high, but the middle is not quite as thick. I will be very inclined to give it a shot next time around. 
Going with one of the pasta specialties I indecisively felt like I was picking out of a hat. From pasta primavara, to lasagna, to eggplant parmesan, I randomly selected the chicken scallopini. The chicken was tender and covered with plenty of garlic, capers, and thin lemon slices. It was served with lightly steamed veggies all on a bed of linguine which was plain but al dente. Accompanied by a basket of warm sourdough rolls that I drowned in a dish of olive oil the meal was satisfying and reasonably priced. Individual pasta plates range from $9.99-$13.99 and family-style portions that serve 2-3, are $15.99-18.99.

With saw dust on the ground, hundreds of playing cards stuck to the ceiling, and floral paintings that looked like they were purchased at the Holiday Day Inn garage sale, the decor is indeed an amalgamation of funky furnishings.  Like Lady Gaga, this restaurant was born this way.  All the more reason to come as you are. Plus, every Sunday night from 5:30-8:30pm is magic night with Johnny Ace Palmer (which explains the playing cards stuck to the ceiling). 
This is prime example to why you should explore the neighborhood and seek out something never before experienced. You just might like what you discover. Start with a super casual scene, add some interesting art, fine pizza and pasta, and sprinkle in some Sunday night magic, and you will have yourself the best named restaurant in Santa Monica, Earth Wind and Flour.