James Beard Award-winning chef Scott Conant and LA restaurateur Stephane Bombet of Bombet Hospitality Group (BHG) have announced the opening of The Ponte, a new contemporary Italian restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, in February 2017. The Ponte will offer guests a relaxed and sophisticated experience complemented by Conant’s soulful Italian cuisine.
Conant's menu will offer a wide selection of charcuterie, antipasti, and pasta, including Spaghetti Pomodoro with his signature ragu. Assorted vegetables and pizza from the kitchen’s wood-burning oven will also be served, along with dishes that celebrate the best of local California ingredients, including Roasted Lamb Neck with raisins, smoked eggplant, goat cheese & pine nut crumble; and Prawns with celery root purée, salmoriglio & crispy sunchokes.
Inspired by the tight-knit community of Pontelandolfo expats—nicknamed Pontes—in Conant's hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, The Ponte seeks to convey a vibe of rustic yet sophisticated, warm, convivial, and conducive to lingering with friends.
"I love the spirit and energy of L.A., so I was thrilled for the opportunity to get back behind the line in one of my favorite cities," says Conant. "Stephane and I have known each other for years and I've always admired his thoughtful approach…You feel like you're among friends when you walk through his doors. That sense of conviviality, of warmth and comfort that comes with community, is exactly the vibe I wanted to create with The Ponte. I hope L.A. enjoys it!"
Celebrated culinary MC and fundraising auctioneer Billy Harris has announced his new dinner series, Hanging with Harris, a lineup of eight intimate, multi-course dining events taking place throughout Los Angeles from February – May. Each Monday night dinner will begin with a cocktail reception hosted by a mixologist from the leading Scotch whisky distiller, William Grant & Sons, followed by a four-course seated dinner with wine pairings from each distinguished chef and a charity auction.
A portion of ticket sales and all proceeds from the auction items will benefit four charities that are close to Harris’ heart: James Beard Foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, No Kid Hungry, and PIGGY BANK.
See below for the Hanging with Harris Dinner Series lineup:
2/20: Bruce Kalman at Union
Union Chef/Owner and James Beard nominee Bruce Kalman has appeared on the Food Network to earn a “Chopped” championship title as well as on Esquire Network to win “Knife Fight.” His Northern Italian cooking style embraces the diverse and abundant produce of California to create exquisitely balanced flavor profiles.
3/6: Suzanne Goin at Lucques
James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Chef,” Suzanne Goin opened Lucques in West Hollywood with her business partner Caroline Styne. The restaurant met with instant success and Suzanne was soon named one of Food and Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs.” Lucques received praise from Condé Nast Traveler, Gourmet, Bon Appétit and Saveur, including a prestigious 3 star review by the Los Angeles Times.
3/13: Nancy Silverton at Osteria Mozza
In addition to “Pastry Chef of the Year,” “Who’s Who of Cooking,” and “Outstanding Restaurant” for Campanile by the James Beard Foundation, Nancy Silverton also received the highest honor given by the James Beard Foundation for “Outstanding Chef” as well as listed as one of the “Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” by Fortune and Food & Wine.
3/27: Jason Neroni at Rose Cafe
Chef Jason Neroni’s menu focuses on local Southern California cuisine with an international influence from his world travels. The bakery celebrates American classics, as well as some of the original Rose bakery classics re-conceptualized with their innovative techniques.
4/3: Michael Cimarusti at Connie and Ted’s
Michelin-starred Chef Michael Cimarusti combines his knowledge and appreciation of the dynamic nature of seafood with an advocacy for sustainable fishing practices evident in every dish. Located in the heart of West Hollywood, Connie and Ted’s pays homage to Cimarusti’s grandparents and the simple, honest seafood cookery of New England.
4/10: David Lentz at The Hungry Cat
David Lentz, husband to Suzanne Goin, is the chef and owner of The Hungry Cat, known for seasonally inspired menus that feature impeccable seafood, bi-coastal American classics, and top-notch cocktails made with farmers’ market ingredients.
4/17: Neal Fraser at Redbird
Chef Fraser battled Iron Chef Cat Cora in 2006 on Food Network’s widely popular series “Iron Chef America” and became the first California chef to win the culinary competition. Fraser most recently appeared on Bravo’s Season 5 of “Top Chef Masters” and was victorious on the Esquire Network’s “Knife Fight.”
5/8: Jon Shook & Vinny Dotoo at Son of a Gun
James Beard Award-winning Los Angeles chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are the owners of animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, Petit Trois, Jon & Vinny’s, and Trois Familia. They have been credited with innovating and changing the dining scene in Los Angeles through their critically acclaimed restaurants. Shook and Dotolo have received numerous nominations and awards including Food & Wine’s 2009 Best New Chef, StarChefs’ 2008 Rising Star Chef, and eight James Beard nominations
Bone marrow custard with camel milk. Sea urchin ice cream. Frito BBQ casserole. Octopus prepared half a dozen ways. Seen as abstract and lofty by some, these kinds of ideas were executed with near-perfection on a grand scale at the LA Food & Wine Festival [LAFW], which took place August 25 – 28 in venues across Los Angeles. And while these novelties wowed attendees day in and day out, they served a far greater purpose in strengthening LA’s reputation in the culinary world.
LA has no shortage of all that is hip and trendy in the foodie realm. Myriads of places pop up practically every day to experiment with the newest concepts, giving the city a massive portfolio of best practices. LAFW was kind enough to reel in some of the most forward-thinking players.
Let’s take a look at three of the festival’s biggest draws, each of which drew dozens of restaurants to showcase their style. Up-and-comers, household names and outright culinary celebrities all followed through on the same mission to bring new meaning to the dishes they created.
Friday’s Night Market
Based on the night markets that serve street food across East Asia, this event delivered the same ‘casual’ fare with an obvious gourmet western twist. Taking place on First and Grand in Downtown LA, a city thoroughfare was covered in red carpet [literally] with the Walt Disney Concert Hall serving as the backdrop. Highlights included the following:
- Badass’ Indian-spiced sliders. Badmaash, Chef Pawan Mahendro
- Liquid nitrogen-chilled foie gras. Patina, Chef Paul Lee
- Octopus salad. Café Pinot, Chef Jake Eaton
- Gourmet hot dogs. Sumo Dog, Chef Jeffrey Lunak
Chefs Jet Tila and Brian Malarkey took the stage to tout Los Angeles as “one of the greatest food cities in the world.”
Saturday’s Grand Tasting
Some seriously good eats made for a glorious LAFW afternoon in Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar—a surprisingly popular venue that hosts other events such as the Planned Parenthood Food Fare. Chefs from across LA represented the city’s culinary diversity in spades.
- Sea urchin ice cream. Chaya Downtown, Chef Joji Inoue
- ‘Mountains of’ foie gras. Hot’s Kitchen, Chef Sean Chaney
- Lobster and shrimp sausage. The Lobster, Chef Collin Crannell
- Purple yam bread pudding. B Sweet, Chef Barb Batiste
- Cocktail-infused cupcakes. Bree’s Cakes, Chef Bree Miller
Restaurant: Impossible Host Robert Irvine was present, serving up some amazing fried chicken and deviled eggs. Celebrity Chef Aaron Sanchez also made a cameo appearance.
Saturday’s Live on Grand
Live on Grand brought in some eye-catching features to bring the festival to its peak. From Barrel and Ashes’ speed-eating competition to Starry Kitchen’s Nguyen Tran shouting obscenities through a megaphone while donning a banana costume, there was no shortage of personality to keep the energy flowing. The food was, of course, excellent.
- Curry sugar and German chocolate donuts. ICDC, Chef Mariah Swan
- Homemade pasta and pesto with Parmesan foam. Ray’s & Stark Bar, Chef Fernando Darin
- Braised beef cheek with basil spaetzli. Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse, Chef Andreas Roller
Tyler Florence brought a splash of Norcal to the scene, representing Wayfare Tavern with shrimp and grits like you wouldn’t believe. He also praised LA’s food scene, and went on to introduce blast from the past De La Soul, who performed for the latter half of the event.
Of course every event came with impeccable and free-flowing wine, beer and cocktails from across the world. Wineries such as Bastianich, Michael Mondavi Family Estate, Chateau d'or et Gueules and Zonin poured while Glenlivet scotch and Hendrick’s Gin showed off their marketing prowess with grand displays of audience interaction.
The retailers showed some impeccable novelties of their own. Be on the lookout for Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream, where a 40-year winemaking veteran decided to apply his attention to detail toward ice cream and sources ingredients from across the globe. Skinny Pop has come out with dark chocolate-dusted popcorn. Even Lexus showed off via its foodie partners, serving chocolate grilled cheese sandwiches and Not Your Father’s adult root beer floats.
LAFW spanned over four days with dozens of events. In addition to the grand tasting-style gatherings, restaurants across the city featured special menus and guest chefs that made for landmark dining occasions. Be on the lookout for next year’s LA Food & Wine Festival at www.lafw.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.