Wednesday, February 1, 2017

FREE. New Jeni's In Venice Scooping Pro Bono Next Week. And Giving To Charity This Weekend.

Jeni's, the beloved Buckeye State ice creamery, quickly made a name for itself via their initial LA offering, a milky white Los Feliz location. Naturally, eastside presence established, they're flocking west. Last week they opened their second LA location via a floor-to-ceiling windowed, 1400 square foot, breezy Venice shop in the heart of the suddenly vibrant Rose Avenue. 

Serving favorites like Brambleberry Crisp, Salted Peanut Butter With Chocolate Flecks and (my personal fave - GET. THIS. SHIT.) Gooey Butter Cake, the new Venice Jeni's is open daily 11 am-11 pm. As a sweet bonus to celebrate the opening, next Thursday, February 9th, the shop's namesake, Jeni Britton Bauer, will be in house, scooping FREE from 7 pm until close. One free scoop in cup or cone, per person, and the first 50 people receive a swag bag. Take advantage.

Also, if you can't make it next week, I suggest you stop by either the Venice or Los Feliz location this Saturday, 2/4. In observance of a real holiday called International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, both will open early at 9 am; and until 12 pm, Jeni's will be donating ALL proceeds to local non-profits. So you're pretty much getting your ice cream (for breakfast) and eating it too.

Or go both days. Like I probably will. 

Photo via Caroline Juen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

You Should Be Eating This Right Now: Dune's Falafel.

What: Organic Green Herb Falafel Sandwich.
Where: Dune (3143 Glendale Blvd, Atwater).

Why: The difference between a good falafel sandwich and bad is VAST. Maybe think "The Dark Knight" versus "Batman v Superman." Of course, like a good superhero movie, a specific falafel sandwich's transcendency involves much more than its namesake. There's the pita, the accruements, the sauce, et al. I've long spoke of Grand Central Market's Madcapra serving LA's finest (hence it being included on my Top 16 of '16) and it still very well might be. However, it better watch its back for Dune. Not just because the charmingly compact Atwater Village healthy Mediterranean post serves one heck of a falafel sandwich, but because they are opening a second location in MadCapra's 'hood of DTLA. Like Madcapra's sandwich, Dune goes very fresh and very organic, starting with the balls which burst with the sort of flavor you simply don't get at your county fair falafel stand. They bake their own flat bread, which tastes both healthy and indulgent, and top it with house hummus, pickles, marinated cabbage and onions and a tangy tahini. Lastly, the surprise guest behind door Number 3!, an added crunch comes via thin shoestring potatoes (I also added feta). It's worth the drive to Atwater. And soon the train to downtown.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Price of LA's Best Lunch Deal Just Increased 50%. And I'm Conflicted About It.

Like many love their kids or dolls or train sets, I love a good lunch deal. A great lunch deal? Holy fucking shit, bro. That's why I have covered Mozza's Lunch/Bar Deal so adamantly over the years. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was the first to mention it at all.

Personally, it served as the beacon of lunch deals: a busy, acclaimed restaurant that didn't necessitate the additional business, offering their transcendent fare at a pauper's fee. A mere twenty buckaroos garnered a patron LA's top pizza, a glass of high quality Italian vino and then LA's top dessert (#ButterscotchBudino4Lyfe). It made Mozza, a restaurant inaccessible to many due to high (yet comparable) pricing and lack of reservation availability, attainable to UCLA Students, Production Assistants, Actor/Waiters, and Humble Food Bloggers alike.

So, imagine my chagrin when I happened to take a peep at the Mozza website last week...

I honestly thought I misread it, so I contacted Mozza PR to ensure I wasn't missing anything. They affirmed to me I had, in fact, understood correctly. The deal that was for the past six years $20 was now... $30. Yes, there are now few restrictions on which pizza you can order like before, but otherwise it's the exact same deal... at a 50 percent price increase. And it stings.

Mozza, to their credit, defended the price gouge, stating, "For a long time, the price of the bar special was untouched even as the cost of the product has steadily risen." As a food blogger who has spent a lot of time the past few years with restaurant operators discussing the realities of ownership, I can understand this. Hell, if you believe this very well-researched Thrillist article, it's about to be impossible to succeed. When I think about it, every time I've told an unknowing someone of the twenty dollar deal, almost every time they respond: "No way. There's no way it's THAT cheap."

It appears, from Mozza's response, they agreed. There is, in fact, no way it is that cheap. What started as an off-menu whisper evolved into a known entity to on the actual menu. The secret was out and people were taking advantage of it. It appears it came time to curb the discount.

Glancing at the ala carte menu, it is still a good deal. Albeit, no longer monumental. My normal Mozza order:

  • Bianca Pizza ($19)
  • Glass Of Wine ($15)
  • Butterscotch Budino ($11)
  • Total ($45)

Now, I am not here to make excuses for the restaurant. A lot of the perceived "value" of the deal -- even at $30 -- comes via rising Mozza menu prices. When the special first came to fruition all these items were multiple dollars cheaper. But, a $15 savings isn't terrible. I also don't want to overlook the fact that very few, if any, restaurants of Mozza quality offer any kind of special like this. Especially one in the middle of the day that enables customers to explore a vast array of the menu.

That said, and the point of all the mumbling: I implore Mozza to meet in the middle and make the Bar Special $25. While $30 most certainly seems justifiable from a food cost perspective, I think Mozza is overlooking the people who enjoy this deal. I don't spend $30 on lunch. UCLA students don't spend $30 on lunch. Struggling actors don't. Even on special occasions.

Thirty dollar lunches for me personally are solely when they're on a producer/studio's dime. And when they're on a studio/producer's dime we are not sitting at the bar. Heck, I rarely if ever even do $30 lunches with my parents. If the point of the price increase was to faze out the popularity of the Bar Deal, you will most certainly achieve your goal. But, if you hope to continue to receive the massive lunch walk-in business Monday through Thursday, it would very much behoove you to keep it in the twenties. Or, at the very least, offer an alternative version, sans the wine, at a very reasonable pricepoint.

The Bar Deal made Mozza, one of LA's finest culinary institutions, the people's culinary institution. It would suck if that weren't the case anymore. 

(Note: You CAN get a deal at Mozza for $20 through Friday via Restaurant Week. Take Advantage.
Other Note: Sorry for so many words on a friggin bar deal.)