Manhattan House Redux: The Sweet Summer Menu to Savor

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Chef Juan Torres, right,  restauranteur Brett Schwartz, left

What can we say about Manhattan House? Located in Manhattan Beach, this is a restaurant that as we’ve said before, could hold its own in DTLA, or the heart of the “other” Manhattan. Sophisticated, fresh, farm to table cuisine; a buzzing atmosphere; and a terrific, supportive staff combine to make a stellar dining experience.

We were delighted to meet the restaurant’s new chef, Juan Torres. His take on the restaurant’s cuisine will veer into the Italian-inspired, while keeping the focus on seasonal ingredients.

“We are going to be introducing six fresh pastas made in-house every day. We’ll also be including whole animal butchery twice a week. I’ve been training our staff on the pasta as we speak, eight hours a day we’ve been working on it,” Torres attests.

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We began our meal with cocktails: the gorgeous La La Land and the spicy The Thriller.  The latter features a heady mix of Karma tequila blanco, Cointreau, fresh kumquat and serrano chili, and lime juice, served on the rocks. I thought La La Land was something special, a smoky flavor permeating the Grey Goose La Poire, with lemon, vanilla, Chartreuse, and dill, served up.

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Each made a great companion to our first courses:  a lush heirloom tomato burrata salad, with balsamic and EVOO;  and a crisp, deliciously spiced yellow tail crudo, which thin shavings of fresh zucchini, onion, and red pepper.

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Both were beautifully presented.

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Gluten free and vegan never tasted as good as with the roasted cauliflower, a heady mix of the cauliflower with crispy buckwheat, celery, pomegranate, pine nuts, and a lemon caper vinaigrette. Light yet entirely fulfilling, it’s a perfect summer dish.

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The house take on beet salad is no slouch, either. A variety of golden and red beets accompanies pistachios, mixed greens, armidda, and a light balsamic dressing.

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But perhaps the most sublime dish is the saffron risotto with sweet corn and basil. Golden, delectable, and rich, it is not heavy, suffused in flavor, and wonderfully aromatic.  Truly something to savor – and I don’t say that lightly.

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Squid ink pasta with was an intense dish, earthy, hearty, and seemingly infused into the house-made spaghetti noodles. With it, we tried the La Vida Pura, another perfectly suited on-the-rocks craft-cocktail, this made with Del Maguey ‘Vida’ mezcal, grapefruit juice, passion fruit, mint, and Peychaud bitters.

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We finished with a whole branzino special. A perfect fish, rubbed with garlic salt and pepper, grilled over zucchini and a lettuce and tomato salad, it was flavorful, tender, simple, and utterly beautiful.

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But let’s not forget dessert: two very different dishes here. We had the restaurant’s signature Panna Cotta, creamy and smooth, a blend of vanilla, raspberries, and basil.

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And we were able to try a brand new desert, a light, fragrant granita, with rose’ jelly. Slightly astringent, it was both refreshing and unique, the rough texture of ice contrasting just about perfectly with the smooth jelly beneath it; the flavor sophisticated and edgy.

Be aware that because specials, fresh ingredients, and seasonal favorites come and go, you may not find the same dishes daily.  But rest assured, what you do find will be delicious.

There is only one more thing to say: no matter where in LA you live, you should spend an evening at Manhattan House. There’s plentiful, free lot-parking, too. Dinner nightly; brunch on Sunday.

Manhattan House is located at 1019 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, just off Sepulveda Blvd.

  • Genie Davis; photos by Jack Burke

Intimate and Intense: Cathy Immordino

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Above, “Reflection” by Cathy Immordino.

A powerful and intimate photographic artist, Cathy Immordino tackles subjects that are profoundly global, relatable and moving. Her subjects are carefully and beautifully rendered in highly emotional works that touch on the environment, immigration, feminism, motherhood. In each of her series of works, Immordino’s message is passionately personal. And it is that deeply personal approach that creates work that feels so universal: if it matters to her, it matters to the viewer.

Whether it is a touching image of a young boy, sepia toned, with a downward gaze or the magical image of “The Portal,” in which a tabby cat is strolling toward what could be the entrance to another world – or the stairs to a busy outdoor space – Immordino’s gift is to capture the ordinary and give it an extraordinary spin.

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Her series Pilgrimage of Heritage delves into heritage, myth, family, story telling. Many of the pieces here have a dreamy, otherworldly quality, an element of magic as in the twinned images of “The Spirit Guide,” where a young boy points by a rocky arch on the left side of the work; on the right is an image of a grave. Many images here are digitally manipulated, some are photo montages. There is a sense of visual alchemy here.
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Above, “Spirit Guide”; below, “A Cry for Help.”
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A Cry for Help is an intensely moving black and white series about Immordino’s own experience with the fraught complications of her pregnancy. While images here may also be digitally enhanced, there is a raw, deep-seated emotion that is the core of this work.
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Her Festival of Lights series documents raves in a vibrant and abstract take that evokes the full, frenzied experience; while all the charm, poignancy, and vulnerability of childhood is on display in her beautiful, dusky series on her growing child, Tom Volume 1. The series is mostly sepia images, rich, timeless. 
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L.A. River goes blue and grey as it tackles the respect or lack of it for nature, the containment of the Los Angeles River, and the power of nature itself. This series of landscapes is infused with loneliness and limitation, and straining at the edges, the power and regeneration of a natural resource that could serve as a stand in for life itself.
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Below, right, the artist’s work at Photo LA.
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The artist is originally from Minneapolis, and her desire to create began with a gift of a Polaroid camera which she received when she was just five years old. The circumstances of the gift may have influenced her eye. She was recovering from a severe car accident – and today there is a certain aspect of healing and tenderness that is a marked part of her work. Whether that is a stretch or not, Immordino’s eye for the personal and compassionate developed early and remained with her through the realization of another creative aspiration, acting.
Having now moved from being in front of the camera to behind it in her professional life, Immordino has tackled a variety of subjects. Her first professional photo work documented the party scene and raves; today her focus is fine art photography.

 

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Now based in Los Angeles, Immordino’s work is exhibited nationally, with a current exhibition at the Hilyer Art Space in Washington, D.C.. Locally, in September, she’ll be exhibited at the Los Angeles Center for Photography; in October her work will be seen at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

“I started photographing to remember the world that exists at that particular time in my life…  Every picture I take I want the viewers to be moved to change the way they perceive the world around them,” she says. Working to capture her own unique point of view in every image, Immordino adds “Some images are photomontages, while others become prints made with alternative processes.”

However she shapes her images, both fierceness and devotion shine through her work. Viewers can see for themselves:

August 18-19 – Chocolate & Art Show at The Vortex, 2341 E. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90021.

September 30 – “Fresh” exhibition at the Los Angeles Center of Photography.

October 6 – Port of Long Beach exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

  • Genie Davis; Photos provided by the artist

When Line Becomes Form: Brand Library Gallery Liberates

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A soaring show filled with powerful figures and shapes, When Line Becomes Form is an elegant, measured spiritual odyssey. Featuring the art work of Mark Acetelli, Dirk Hagner, Cindy Jackson, Grey James, Joanna Kidd and Miles Lewis, the expressionistic exhibition roams from sculpture to painting and drawing, touching all points between them.

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Pasadena based painter Mark Acetelli works in oils and encaustics, layering his canvasses in a kind of emotional abstraction.  His figures are ghost-like, souls in migration, images to which the viewer imparts the more concrete elements. Lush and dreamy, these works wander through the mind and take root there, wavering in an emotional wind.

Brand line 2Dirk Hagner uses traditional mediums to create uniquely modern portraits of literary and political subjects. Iconic figures and those whose images just appear familiar are portrayed through a series of large-scale woodblock portraiture. Hagner’s highly stylized works are seemingly elegaic, poignant and cool, involving yet carefully nuanced.

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The late Cindy Jackson’s large scale and absolutely magnificent sculptures here are brimming with life. The artist noted that viewers should “Look deeply into my work and you’ll see that it is not about the figure itself, but about the internal emotional worlds that sit within those boundaries.” The entwined and exaggerated shapes of her very-much-alive figures soar through the space they inhabit. It would be impossible for a viewer to not stand beside these figures in awe of their spiritual depth. These are souls frozen in sculpted bodies, to which Jackson pays tribute. The internationally recognized and award-winning artist has created sublime works that serve as a legacy for her own indomitable spirit. To a large extent, these pieces are the center of the exhibit, from which other works spiral out and in, line having fully become form in her works.

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Glendale-based artist Grey James’ offers paintings and mixed media, personal, involving accounts of transition both physical and emotional. James creates moving transgender icons, intimate and appealing; a universal sense of beauty and change in these images going far beyond the borders of sexual definition. The works have the quality of religious paintings, a reverence that the viewer finds palpable.

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Joanna Kidd’s work forms a different sort of transition: that between the sculptural and painting. Her bas relief portraits are raised in high relief, shaping a highly dimensional, caught-in-motion quality to each portrait.  The faces she depicts are detailed and alive, shifting in light and in the viewers relationship to the images, so that they seem to be watching and watchful. Her art contains something quite intensely, universally human, the capture of a living being for a fraught moment in time.

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Miles Lewis considers himself a life-drawing artist. Drawing is the medium he uses to shape figures that are fluid and resonant; delicately textured, these works on paper seem ready to shape-shift into something more dimensional. These are carefully wrought creations, studies that make it seem possible they may morph into flesh and blood.

Over all, this exhibit is all about life: the lines that become form are the strands of DNA that create existence. The art is a part of the wonder and artistry of a spiritual universe, a new way of creating the real; expressionist art that expresses the most powerful and graceful embodiment of art itself – the human form, the human spirit.

The show runs through September 1st. The Brand Art Gallery is located at 1601 W. Mountain Street in Glendale.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis

 

Primo is Prime Italian South Bay Style

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The beach cities south of LAX have too-long languished without a wide choice of fine dining experiences. But that’s all changed now, with a bevy of epicurean delights springing up all over the South Bay.

Among them is Primo, a homey, welcoming, yet upscale setting with warm staff and authentic Italian cuisine. Proud of it’s many imported Italian ingredients, the restaurant offers something for everyone, from delicate pizzas to hearty fish and meat dishes.

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Innovative chef Michelangelo Aliaga decided to move to the beach cities with his wife and family after the birth of his twins. “In the process – some may say it was fate, that the opportunity to be a part of Primo’s start and growth presented itself and it was too good to pass up. What we do every day is more than just cooking. Each dish has our passion, our energy, and our love for Italian food,” he asserts. “We’re passionate about each product that we bring from Italy.  Many of the ingredients that we use in our dishes, such as our olive oil,  prosciutto, cheeses in all their varieties, and salamis, take months or even years to produce. That kind of devotion to food and its history is an experience told not by the chef but by all the people that make the ingredients are the best of the world, ‘the artisan producers.'”
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So with these ingredients in mind, how was the kitchen? Our meal began with craft cocktails that were light and refreshing, a great accompaniment to the fresh, hot bread and imported olive tapenade.
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A starter of octopus served over sliced tomatoes and potatoes provided a terrific contrast in textures, the cold cooked potatoes and thinly sliced tomatoes offering an excellent base for the tender yet chewy fish.
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The Cesare Salad featured whole, fresh anchovies along with a lovely, savory dressing. The quality of the cheese shavings was also excellent.
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Our first course was a thin crust pizza with goat cheese and imported Pecorino, salty and yet refined, with a crust that had the slightly chewy yet light texture of the dough, which had a hint of sweetness.
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Our secondi focused once again on the sea. My salmon with pistachio crust came with broccolini and fingerling potatoes; it was juicy and ample, a superior cut of fish that was fresh and flavorful.
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The signature Brodo di Pesce had a rich and spicy broth, tomato based, that served as a richly nuanced contrast to generously portioned chunks of tender fish, crab legs, and mussels. Again, a generous portion with plenty of texture and flavor. The crisp bread accompanying the dish was just right to soak up the last of the broth.
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Dessert was a highlight: house made, fresh spumoni gelato – gelato flavors change nightly. Along with chocolate, strawberry, and pistachio, vanilla was added to the traditional spumoni flavors.
The personable staff made the meal feel well-attended, but not rushed. Come for the food with its fresh, carefully curated ingredients, for the convivial atmosphere, and the dedication to innovative renderings of classic dishes in the kitchen. Primo is primed for success in the beach cities.
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Primo is located at 24590 Hawthorne Boulevard in Torrance.