Over the Top Culinary Experiences in L.A. and California

This article was first published in print in Malibu Coast Lifestyle Magazine and Conejo Valley Lifestyle Magazine (April 2023) with an online version here.

There is no shortage of extraordinary culinary experiences in Southern California. These favorite unforgettable splurge-worthy meals are sure to excite and delight all of your senses.

Eat Your Drink + Tasting Menu With Matthew Biancaniello

Those who have been around long enough in L.A. will recognize Matthew Biancaniello from The Library Bar at The Hollywood Roosevelt, circa 2008 to 2012. Known for his adventurous cocktails based on farm-fresh, unique and organic ingredients, Matthew visits at least five different farmers’ markets to ignite his imagination. Now his libations can be thoroughly appreciated with bites and dishes that run 14 courses as a Los Angeles pop-up, Like No Other.

The 3-hour experience is in an intimate setting with typically around six diners, where Matthew shares his knowledge and experience of what’s in season and his process behind the creations. Courses and sips sound like poetry—ogo seaweed-infused Mezcal with lemon and strawberry guavas served in a nautilus shell and garnished with viola flowers; lamb tartare with onion, mint and cinnamon topped with a raw quail egg and a side of pickled Meiwa kumquats in white balsamic and pickled daikon; and persimmon brandy old fashioned with candy cap mushroom bitters served in a sea sponge.

Check out Matthew’s YouTube Channel, Liquid Journeys (@liquidjourneys9760), for cocktail magic and be on the lookout for the release of his second book, Omakocktail. Learn more at MatthewBiancaniello.com or book reservations at ExploreTock.com/EatYourDrink. The location changes frequently and is sent the day before.

Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, Beverly Hills

L.A.’s new Michelin Star recipient sits atop the Beverly Hills Gucci store with an open-air view of Rodeo Drive. The second installment of famed Italian Chef Massimo Bottura’s collaboration with Gucci, the restaurant Gucci Osteria impresses with exceptional hospitality and an inventive menu full of surprises. Here Executive Chef Mattia Agazzi creates playful dishes like risotto camouflaged as pizza where the burnt caper tastes like a pizza crust. Traveling from Italy to California, Chef Mattia fuses age-old Italian cuisine traditions with produce-driven California coast offerings—pulling from his childhood and first impressions of L.A.—like a dish built to look like the arches of Walt Disney Concert Hall. Cod as Milanese was a favorite course, in which 24-hour miso-marinated black cod is prepared inside a crisp breading (almost like arancini) with tomato terrine. Book a five-course prix fixe dinner like the Beverly Hills Classics tasting menu with exquisitely selected wine pairings or the new fish-forward Cali State of Mind tasting menu. GucciOsteria.com/en

Nozawa Bar, Beverly Hills

There are many high-end omakase experiences in L.A., but this one is above the rest, featuring more than 20 courses of primarily nigiri sushi plus sashimi and handrolls. Adventurous eaters can expect surprises like clear Japanese jellyfish, monkfish liver and a 4-foot octopus tentacle hoisted high by the chef. This intimate sushi bar tucked behind L.A.’s favorite SUGARFISH in Beverly Hills is led by Chef Fujita. He and Chef Nozawa visit the L.A. fish markets each morning to select the best available fare for the menu. There are only 10 seats and guests must arrive on time as every course is served to everyone at once. Make a reservation for one of two seatings (6 and 8:30 p.m.) to appreciate rare cuts of Kama-toro (bluefin tuna’s fatty collar meat), Santa Barbara uni, Pacific Northwest oysters, Baja California bluefin tuna, Alaskan ikura (salmon roe), New Zealand pink lobster, scallop, sea eel, giant clam, large tamago portions, and beyond. There is a reason Nozawa Bar earned a Michelin Star! We discovered Nozawa Bar in 2019. NozawaBar.com

Outstanding in the Field 

Catch this roving restaurant all over the world and often in California as they have made their mark frequently on the Malibu Pier and at other awe-inspiring outdoor SoCal settings. Seated at a long table, guests have the opportunity to break bread with strangers and share meals created by guest chefs who source locally, while celebrating the workers who make the meal possible—chefs, farmers, vintners, brewers, and more. These one-day pop-up culinary adventures are truly outstanding, as farmers and chefs set the table at farms, beaches, vineyards, mountain tops, city streets, fishing docks, and other extraordinary sites. They offer a shared connection for one time in one place—experiences that will never be replicated. Almost like an ephemeral piece of art, they are celebrations of humanity, encouraging family-style meals and lively discussions at the table. Most start with several hours of passed appetizers and beverages before the seated dinner. Join the mailing list at OutstandingintheField.com and book as soon as tickets are released. Check out our experience in the high desert.

The Tavern at Zaca Creek, Buellton

Open since August 2020, with Inn rooms opening shortly thereafter, the food and cocktail programs are the best thing to come to Buellton in decades, featuring dishes sourced from local farmers, ranchers, and fisherfolk. Around a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles, slow down in the Santa Ynez Valley and make The Tavern at Zaca Creek a focal point of your trip. Preserving the allure of an old tavern, the bar program not only offers local wines but a massive list of Mezcal, bourbon, and curated spirits some 600 bottles strong. A lavish list of vodkas will have you ordering a Caviar Martini with JCB vodka and blue cheese olives. Don’t miss this special experience in the Central Coast.

The new Executive Chef Anthony Minniti has rolled out over-the-top menu items like Caviar Dip & Fries and a Loaded Caviar Baked Potato with creme fraiche, chives, cheddar, and of course, caviar. While Buellton may be best known for pea soup, the surf and turf are the standouts here. Share the 16-oz. New York steak or the Seared Bluefin Tuna with roasted tomatillo sauce, Sicilian caponata with eggplant, roasted tomatoes, garlic, capers, Kalamata olives, and Calvisius caviar garnish, all served with smashed Yukon potatoes. Zaca-Creek.com/Tavern

Gastro Garage—The Torched Experience at SLS Hotel Beverly Hills 

There are gimmicks and then there is fire fun-a sort of molecular gastronomythat is this 8-course pop-up dinner that used to pop off around L.A. and can now be found firing food at the SLS Hotel. Gastro “Mechanics” flame and seer food with blow torches, and the promise of the evening is delicious, unique dishes. Think torched maple-glazed carrots served on drill bits with a foam dip, sous-vide salmon scorched before your eyes and ready to be dipped in a foam essence, tender marinated short ribs, a deconstructed pizza mouth explosion, a Cubano, and injected brioche doughnuts. The founder is an actor who worked at Bazaar at the SLS Hotel and was inspired by Chef Jose Andres’ insane creations that made guests go wild. Learn how the Gastro Garage helped us get through the pandemic. TheGastroGarage.com

Masters of Taste, Pasadena

L.A.’s premier outdoor luxury food and beverage festival Masters of Taste returns Sunday, April 2, and sells out every year, attracting over 3,000 guests. Sip, savor, sample and celebrate on the field of the Pasadena Rose Bowl with over 100 Culinary Masters; delectable sweets prepared by L.A.’s top Sweet Masters; top Beverage Masters who will be featuring signature handcrafted cocktail tastings from over 25 spirit brands and top cocktail bars, a premier 50-Yard-Line Cocktail Bar, select wineries, local craft breweries, cold-pressed juices, cold brew coffee, live entertainment and much more. Chefs Michael Reed and Kwini Reed (Poppy+Rose and Poppy&Seed) host the event.

Walk around and indulge on bites from Yardbird, Ayara Thai, Alexander’s Steakhouse, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, La Boheme, 1212 Santa Monica and many more, knowing that 100% of the proceeds directly benefit Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization celebrating 50 years of providing homeless services and housing for thousands of neighbors. Read about some bites LaLaScoop loved in the past. Purchase advance tickets at MastersofTasteLA.com/.

Palmaz Vineyards, Napa Valley

Located at a pre-Prohibition winery founded in 1881 by one of the pioneers of wine production in the Napa Valley, Palmaz Vineyards is headed by Culinary Director Michael Binder. His sensational menu pairs with the vineyard’s wines and includes decadent dishes: dark chocolate cabernet truffle, smoked salmon blini with crème fraiche and wasabi caviar, Swedish meatballs, Italian mostarda and Genesee Valley Ranch grass-fed and grass-finished wagyu beef roulade sourced from their sister property where black hide wagyu are humanely and sustainably raised on organic native grasses and abundant fresh mountain water. The lavish wine-tasting menu ends with a 2017 Florencia Muscat complemented with pound cake and garden tangerine Chantilly cream and candied almond. Book online at PalmazVineyards.com/RequestVisit.


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