March 30, 2015

Morso della Bestia (Bite of the Beast) at Locanda del Lago, Santa Monica

On the last Thursday of each month, Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica hosts a five course communal dinner called Morso della Bestia or "Bite of the Beast". Each month features a whole animal roasted at the restaurant and carved and served table side by Chef Gianfranco Minuz. This month's dinner featured an all natural suckling pig from Durazo Farm and a variety of locally sourced produce from the Santa Monica farmer's market. The dinner is $55 per person with the option of free-flowing house wine for $18 or premium wine pairing for $28. I had the opportunity to dine at the most recent dinner and would like to thank the gracious team at Lago for hosting me and my husband.

We arrived around 7 p.m. and had some time to enjoy a drink and meet the diners at our communal table before the first course was served. Three large tables in the main dining room were set for Morso della Bestia and the seats filled up quickly. Our table consisted of first timers and regulars, including a gentleman that's travels all the way from Seal Beach.

To start, I ordered the Bella Nera ($14) made with High West Rye, Amaro Nonino, Punt e Mes, Angostura bitters, and orange peel. This was a perfect cocktail for me as it was slightly on the bitter side with a hint of sweetness. I've tried a few cocktails at Lago and have enjoyed them all thanks to Joe, the resident bartender and sommelier.

While waiting for the meal to start, we were treated to house made white bread and herb focaccia. It's worth pointing out that the restaurant is located on 3rd street where the farmer's market takes place. The restaurant gets to features the fresh and seasonal ingredients in many of its dishes.

The first course was a marinated roasted pork tenderloin with sliced radish and cheese over baby frisee salad. The bitterness of the frisee complemented the tender and savory pork.

Next up was the leek, barely and speck soup. Speck is an Italian cured and smoked pork typically used to flavor soups. The broth was surprisingly delicate with a subtle smokiness from the speck. A hearty and comforting soup I'd be happy to enjoy any night.

The lasagna was the hit of the evening and left everyone begging for more. The pork shoulder ragu was rich and full of pork flavor that gave me a foodgasm after each bite. Everything about this lasagna was spot on, from the doneness of the pasta to the ragu and pasta ratio to the flavors and the seasoning. Fingers crossed this dish makes another appearance. 

When the chef rolled out the star of the evening on a carving board, it drew many gasps and ahhs. The beautifully cooked suckling pig was on display and we all couldn't wait to taste it. 

Each diner received a different part of the pig with baby carrots from Carpenter and pink lady apples from Fair Hill. Not quite sure what piece of the pig I received, but it was quite tasty. The one thing that would have made it better was a sauce or additional seasoning on the meat. I would have preferred a fattier piece of pork, and was lucky to receive a piece of pork cheek from the pig's head, thanks to a diner at our table who was brave enough to tackle the pig's head and share. Thank you!

Finally, we concluded the meal with organic vanilla gelato and fresh strawberries from Pudwill Farm. This was the perfect light and refreshing dessert to end the meal. After four hours, five courses, a few cocktails and many great conversations, I can say with certainty that I can't wait to go back for another Morso della Bestia. Not only was it a good meal, but the experience of making new friends over a shared meal really made the evening. 

Who wants to join me for lamb on April 30th?

Note: These dinners usually book up in advance. To reserve a seat, call 310.451.3525.

Locanda del Lago

231 Arizona Ave 
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Locanda Del Lago on Urbanspoon

February 2, 2015

Les Papilles, Paris (6th arr)

Les Papilles is an old wine shop that has been converted into a bistro and grocery store in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, steps away from the Luxembourg Gardens. It's the kind of place where you go to enjoy a three hour meal and a few bottles of wine, while making friends with the diners at the next table. 

January 26, 2015

Passage 53, Paris (9th arr)

Out of all the restaurants I dined at in Paris, and there were many, Passage 53 was by far one of my favorites. From hand pulled noodles in China town to falafels in Marais, savory crepes in Montparnasse and the chef's tastings at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Frenchie and more, few meals came close to what I experienced at Passage 53.