Taverna Tony

TAVERNA TONY
23410 Civic Center Way
Malibu, CA 90265
T. 310.317.9667


A couple of years ago, after silently lamenting that I lacked a sense of adventure, I decided to drive to Malibu on my own from the ranch. Driving long distances was still new to me at the time and I had no idea that the canyon roads were going to be curvy the entire way. It felt death-defying–you might as well have asked me to go bungee-jumping! My palms were sweaty, my stomach was in knots, and I cursed myself for not driving straight into L.A. like I normally did.

Taking the road less travelled, though, has its perks because that's when I stumbled across Taverna Tony, a romantic, bougainvillea-shaded veranda enclosed by a traditional white stucco wall. With its terracotta tiles and bright cerulean blue touches, it looked as though this entire restaurant had been transplanted from a vibrant coastal town in the Mediterranean. Feeling proud that I had completed my mission safely and soundly, I confidently strode into the bar and ordered myself a glass of crisp white wine.

I can't resist a Greek menu, but the best things here aren't actually on the menu at all. Tony's highly addictive "house dip" is graciously sent out with a basket of a warm loaf of bread once you sit down. Apparently, the dip's main ingredients are avocado, red caviar, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. The rest is a secret that's kept under lock and key. Every time I've returned since, I keep asking for the recipe, hoping one of the waiters will crack. But this is all in vain, which is wise because, instead of recreating it at home, I have no choice but to come back for more.

Of course, the crisp, bountiful salads and simply grilled seafood dishes are major draws, but my other favorites here include the avgolemono soup (a homemade chicken and orzo soup bolstered with egg yolks and lemon juice), the tender and smoky grilled baby octopus with spring onions, and the psarasoupa (a tomato-based fish and seafood soup). It's so hard not to fall in love with Greek food. If you make a day out of hanging out in Malibu, you must stop here!

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Octopus, Sea Urchin and Breadcrumbs

CECCONI'S
8764 Melrose Avenue
310.432.2000


Sea urchin pasta is easily one of my top picks as a fantasy last supper but, I have to admit, it's not exactly an original idea of my own. It was an idea I picked up from lounging around at Italian art dealer's loft in West Chelsea years ago (when I still lived in New York). Most of those random nights in the city were a blur, but this one in particular stood out because of the fantasy last supper conversation. 

The whole thing began when I shared that I'd recently read an interview with Eric Ripert in which he revealed that his fantasy last supper would be something like meditating under a banyan tree and then eating a dozen oysters. What a Zen answer, Eric Ripert. Anyway, that somehow evolved into everyone taking turns sharing what their fantasy last supper would be.

While I can't remember what I said–or what anyone else said that night–I do remember what the hostess said:

"I'd be on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea with my best friends. We'd all go diving for sea urchins, swim back to the boat and open them up. I'd cook spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, and then we'd dump our catch into the pasta!" she said, while waving her cigarette around. "And, of course, there would be very good wine."

With that, she conjured up a timeless image of la dolce vita; a life of leisure, nature, and friends. 

Since then, from time to time, I'll have an insatiable craving for sea urchin pasta and nothing else will do. Cecconi's rendition uses spaghetti alla chitarra tossed in a silky sea urchin sauce with slices of grilled octopus. It's an oceanic splendor that whisks me away to the turquoise waters of the Italian coast by the forkful... In other words, give me sea urchin pasta and then give me death!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream

JENI'S ICE CREAM SPLENDID ICE CREAMS
1954 Hillhurst Avenue
323.928.2668
 


Last night, after a casual dinner in Silver Lake, my friend Bill and I drove over to Jeni's for ice cream. (Getting ice cream after dinner is such a nice thing to do with friends.) Bill is the one who introduced me to Jeni's and it's the best I've had.

I admire the integrity of their ingredients. They don't use emulsifiers or stabilizers in their products, so it never tastes too sweet or artificial. To boot, they have the most creative array of flavors: Juniper & Lemon Curd, Genmaicha & Marshmallows, Cocoa Curry Coco... And they debut a new collection of flavors every season. A small order at Jeni's ($5) gives you two scoops of any flavor. You also have your choice of a cup, a sugar cone, a cake cone or–for an extra dollar–a waffle cone.

I almost always stick to my favorite one: Brown Butter Almond Brittle, a buttercream base laden with crunchy chunks of almond brittle. The honeyed, buttery, nutty notes of the brittle go so well with the creamy tang of buttercream. It's for us "plain vanilla" fans who want to take a walk on the wild side. My usual order is the small–with both scoops being the same flavor–in a cake cone, which I then eat with a spoon. (The only other flavor I've considered is the Goat Cheese with Red Cherries but haven't pulled the trigger on it yet.)

"I'm surprised they even offer cake cones," I noted, as we happily ate our ice cream on the drive back to his place. "They're a dying breed of ice cream vessels."

"Children like them," Bill replied, as he crunched down on his sugar cone.

"I love them," I said, scraping my spoon around the scoop of ice cream, "They're my favorite. I like their plainness. And the compartments around the top... Such a good design feature! Every bite of cone has ice cream encased inside."

"I've never seen someone order an ice cream cone and eat it with a spoon before," he pointed out, glancing over at me as he switched lanes, "But, of course, you'd do that. That doesn't surprise me."

"My teeth are sensitive," I explained, "And I use the back of the spoon to pack the ice cream into the cone compartments as I go."

Ice cream. It's serious business. I bet Jeni's would tell you that.

 

 

Clark's Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Balm

I think that I may have just found the Holy Grail of lip balms: Clark's Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Balm ($19). It's not sticky, glossy or waxy. It has a gel-like consistency that glides on smoothly and enrobes your lips in a cushiony, healthy sheen. Jasmine extract in the formula emits the most beautiful smell.

Move over Chapstick, this is what I'd call an all-around classic lip balm. My lips go from feeling like raisins to plump juicy grapes after one swipe. And that packaging! Looks like a lucky charm, dontcha think?