Richard Foss

A La Carte: Kitchen takeovers

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Coming Soon To A Restaurant Near You… Several South Bay restaurants are hosting prestigious chefs visiting our

Mayors Mike Gin and Wayne Powell compete in the Blue Zones Mayor's Cook-Off last week at Abigaile. Photo by Mark McDermott

Mayors Mike Gin and Wayne Powell compete in the Blue Zones Mayor’s Cook-Off last week at Abigaile. Photo by Mark McDermott

neighborhood and showing off while they’re here. Abigaile has been leading the way, with culinary luminaries such as Chef Tin Vuong. (Last week Abigaile’s patrons decided that the Mayor of Manhattan Beach is a better cook than his counterparts in Hermosa or Redondo.) The next such event is a “Kitchen Takeover” Jan. 28, at which celebrity chefs will each make a signature item to be served as part of a multicourse dinner. Big names are participating, among them Tony DiSalvo of Whist in Santa Monca and Jet Tila, the chef who mainstreamed Thai food in America. Abigaile’s Kitchen Takeover is January 28 at 6:30 p.m., price is $65.00 including a beer tasting – call 310-798-8227 for reservations…

Is It Really Decadent If You Don’t Feel Guilty Afterward? … It’s that time of year when many people resolve to eat more healthily and shed a few pounds, which usually means swearing off the multicourse dinners at local restaurants. Shade Hotel offers an alternative: This month they’re featuring menus by “Biggest Loser” celebrity chef Devin Alexander, who has created low-calorie, high flavor menus. They promise “decadent yet guilt-free” entrees that don’t top 500 calories and cocktails to match that are under 200. Why not start the year getting the maximum joy from the minimum of calories?

Baron of Brewing and Scholar of Suds… Ben Weiss of Placentia’s The Bruery isn’t a household name in the South Bay, unless you live with someone who really appreciates fine beers. The Bruery offers an extraordinary selection of arcane ales, and Weiss will pair them with a five-course tasting menu at Hudson House on January 21. The menu is fearlessly adventurous – lamb cassoulet with caraway matched with Danish rye ale, anyone? This will be a fantastic evening for those who want to experience pairing beers with food – cost is $65.00, and you can reserve at 310-798-9183…

And One Local Celebrity… We have one homegrown chef to talk about this week – twelve-year-old Jack Witherspoon, whose book “Twist It Up” won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. Jack will be cooking at Chez Melange on Sunday, February 24 – no specifics on the menu yet, but the price is $45 per person for four courses. Jack will come out of the kitchen occasionally to sign copies of his book, which will be on sale that evening. This dinner will certainly sell out – call 310-540-1222 for reservations.

Openings and Closings… Pitfire Pizza will open in downtown MB on January 31, and promotions will include a day when all proceeds go to a South Bay charity – watch for an announcement. I dined at their Valley location, and they take the name seriously – the pizzas were charred at the edge by the wood fire, but tasted delicious.

The next restaurant in the Mucho location will be called Circa, and will feature eclectic food from celebrity chef Ottavio Becerra, late of Palate and Pinot Bistro, with cocktails by Julian Cox who created libations for John Sedlar and other luminaries. Expect an opening in mid-February.

No word yet about what will replace Schat’s Bakery in El Segundo, which shut down last month, and another newcomer seems to be having troubles. Broth served a limited menu of Vietnamese food for a month and then closed without explanation.

And there is a new Mexican restaurant in the South Bay: The former Casa Pronto in Lunada Bay is now Alfredo Garcia’s, with the same ownership as the neighboring Lunada BayHouse. Chef Solorzano has put some ambition into the menu and is serving his excellent tamales and regional seafood items.

Any openings I should know about, any upcoming events or food festivals? I’m at


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