X Marks the Spot
ON BOTH THE SIXTH and Seventh Avenue sides of Ivy Hotel, the new luxury hotel that fronts on F Street, enormous metal beams cross in giant X shapes behind ground-floor windows. One such structure anchors Quarter Kitchen, a striking and costly restaurant designed to raise the bar for downtown eateries. It will be reviewed here soon, but for a tasty tease: Specialties include caviar tacos ($24, or $99 if you prefer Iranian Beluga caviar); a golden-crusted pie of lobster, baby vegetables and creamy sauce baked in an iron cocotte; and for chic après baseball suppers, a 20-inch Kobe beef hot dog priced at a buck an inch. This surely is the only such pup to bark in all of Southern California, and at $20, isn’t it nice to know the pickle relish is homemade?
BITES AND COMMENT: Eat cheaper down south. Chabert’s, the semiformal dining room at the Rosarito Beach Hotel (it’s been around so long, Hernando Cortéz may have stayed there), occasionally hosts multicourse dinners accompanied by Baja wines. At $29.95 per person for three courses, the meals seem a bargain, especially when the distinguished wines of Monte Xanic flow freely (rosaritobeachhotel.com) . . . Nicolas Carbonne, named “Best Waiter” in the June issue of this magazine, departs Tapenade to become general manager at Avenue 5, which occupies the former Lips location in Bankers Hill (opening is slated for August). Chef/proprietor Colin MacLaggan, who graduated Le Cordon Bleu in London, cooked down the street from Cicada at Bertrand at Mister A’s. He features multiple-option tasting menus of French-accented American fare, and Carbonne suggests the wines . . . Chef/author Deborah Schneider, whose 2006 volume Baja! Cooking on the Edge made Baja fare a snap for cooks who never chopped a chile, returns to the shelves soon with Rancho La Puerta: Cooking with the Seasons . . . From now ’til the last pony runs at Del Mar, Addison at The Grand Del Mar offers a deluxe “Summer Cocktail and Snack” bar menu to bettors wagering that blackberry-papaya Margaritas can successfully lubricate swank noshes like roasted asparagus with shallot-truffle fondue.
FREE LUNCHES? Hungry sleuths find them in unlikely locations like the Saks Fifth Avenue men’s department, which occasionally loads a table with nibbles and iced Heinekens, and at Ralphs in the Uptown Center, where an engaging deli staffer sometimes hands out mini-buffets of cold cuts, cheeses and pickles . . . Chef Nicola Calamari has departed Del Mar’s Il Fornaio to head the kitchens at Roberto Vigilucci’s adjacent Leucadia eateries, Robbie’s and Vigilucci’s Ristorante & Pizzeria . . . In the mid-1990s, Rene Herbeck regularly earned “Best Chef” accolades for helming Marius at the late-and-lamented Le Meridien Coronado. An institutional and private chef since then, Herbeck again bows publicly as new culinary partner in downtown’s Opera Café & Bakery . . . Eclipse Chocolate entrepreneur William Gustwiller now teaches the mysteries of chocolate-making at Williams-Sonoma in Fashion Valley.
TOO TERRIFIED OF THE KITCHEN to toss a dinner party at home? The Witherby can help. The plush private-party venue on the upper floor of the historic, 1882 International Order of Odd Fellows building at 524 Market Street held the first of what may be monthly dinner parties in June. Called “The Witherby Uncorked,” the 7 p.m.–midnight frolics encompass a multicourse dinner, quality wines and music for $125 person, nicely inclusive of tax and tip. Chef Antonio Friscia of Stingaree (whose corporate parent, EnDev, also owns The Witherby) supervises the cuisine, served to a maximum of 110 guests in the dome-topped Spencer Room. Afterward, guests glide to the handsome Sky Room for dancing and optional postprandial beverages.
The Pepperoni Kids
THE MAGICAL EFFECT of free pizza was manifested by the crowd that attended the grand opening of Pierre’s Place, a new café in downtown’s Toussaint Academy of the Arts and Sciences. Students (all formerly homeless) manage and staff Pierre’s (named for Pierre Toussaint, a colonialera patron of the underprivileged), which serves daily 6 a.m.–10 p.m. and specializes in handmade pizzas, artisanstyle gelatos, stylish panini sandwiches and creative coffees and ice cream beverages (peanut butter shakes!). Hizzoner Jerry Sanders, Councilman Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts joined forces to cut the “first” pizza, but slices of tasty pies had been sliding down grateful gullets for an hour prior to this ceremony. Father Joe Carroll, who runs the academy as part of his Father Joe’s Villages, beamed. “These kids think they own the place, and that’s great,” he said. This sense of ownership showed as youths cooked quietly in the professional kitchen and served graciously in the dining room. Earnings benefit the TAAS scholarship and alumni support programs. Pierre’s Place is comfy and spacious, with leather sofas, a fireplace and stocked bookshelves creating a coffee lounge in one corner. Find it under a big red awning on Fifth Avenue at Ash Street.