June 2016 - Please The Palate
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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register. Australian wines had not been on my radar until few recent events reintroduced them. For the last five years, there had been a decline...

Food is art. And at Ray's and Stark Bar, the restaurant at LACMA, art is food. Inspired by the museum where Ray's is located, Chef Fernando Darin has created an internationally inspired menu using local seasonal ingredients. But it is the plating that takes it from food to art. Ray's and Stark Bar at LACMA Chef Fernando Darin was born to an Italian family in a region of Brazil with Portuguese and African influences. He recently arrived to Ray's and Stark Bar after working for Eric Greenspan, Michael Voltaggio and most recently for Patina at the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Previous to cooking, he was a musician and artist for fourteen years. It is his global upbringing and artistic background that influence his food and drive his creativity. We started with the tuna tartare with avocado, oroblanco citrus fruit and taro chips and I was immediately transported to the realm of food as art. The presentation was like a beautiful art piece of art, balancing of color and dimension. The flavors are fresh and the oroblanca citrus brightens up the dish. Tuna Tartare, avocado, oroblanco citrus fruit, taro chips
It seems like every time I drive down Ventura Boulevard in Studio City/Sherman Oaks, there is a new restaurant. It is hard to keep up but one of these restaurants caught my eye. With the vibrantly colorful exterior, it is hard to miss Cocina Condesa along Ventura Blvd just east of Colfax. Cocina Condesa Inside the restaurant is a large open space with long high wooden tables and tall red leather chairs, a full bar along the back wall and tv screens above the bar showing the local sports game. The walls are exposed brick while the ceiling is red. Mexican folk art is displayed throughout the restaurant, as well as accents of color. The loud, casual dining room opens up to an outdoor patio that runs the length of the restaurant. This restaurant screams high energy. Cocina Condesa Cocina Condesa features a menu prepared by Executive Chef Eddie Garcia of Mexican street food - tamales, tacos, corn on the cob and more. What that also means is that the menu consists of small plates so it is fun to order a lot of different items for a selection of tastes.