Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Wolf's Passion for Food with Chef Marcel Vigneron

In Partnership with the Premium Rewards Gold Card from American Express

If you haven't been to Chef Marcel Vigneron's restaurant on Melrose, you should highly consider making a reservation soonWolf embodies an intimate space with a contemporary yet rustic vibe serving innovative Californian cuisine. Chef Marcel prides himself in having a menu driven by seasonal ingredients sourced at local farmers markets. His passion for cuisine is influenced by his extensive travels as well as LA's diverse culinary culture. 

Yes, we pride ourselves for our exciting restaurant scene in LA. If you're a foodie like me, you'll want to know that with the American Express Gold Card, you earn 2X Membership Rewards Points at U.S. restaurants (terms apply). That means twice the points and twice the fun while dining at your favorite places!

Thanks to the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, I had the opportunity to hang out with Chef Marcel in his kitchen as he showed me how he makes his famous Mushroom Risotto and Pork Belly Tom Kha. It was an incredible experience. We talked about how he started cooking, his favorite burger in LA, and which taco truck you should be hitting up. You can eavesdrop on our conversation below.

Chef Marcel Vigneron putting the finishing touches on those famous Brussels Sprouts. 

When did you become interested in cooking?
I first became interested in cooking by watching my mom, just growing up as a kid and watching her in the kitchen and just kind of like being fascinated by what she was doing. Originally, my first sort of like spark and inspiration from cooking just came from my mother

How did you become a chef?
                  I didn't decide to become a chef until a little bit later in life. I cooked all throughout high school, but it was more so kind of a job than a career. After I graduated high school, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I took a trip to Europe to kind of do some soul searching. I backpacked through Italy, Spain, Greece, France, for about three or four months. It was at that time that I came to the progressive realization that I was already doing what I wanted to be doing, and I just needed to pursue it wholeheartedly. I would say my first trip to Europe was really kind of the biggest impacting factor on what made me decide to become a chef.

How did the concept of Wolf come about?
                  The concept of Wolf came about when I decided to open up my own restaurant, and I was like, "Okay, I'm going to this." Then, "What is a restaurant essentially?" A restaurant's a team. Then also where did my cooking come from? It came originally from my mother, so my mother's maiden name is Gaelic for wolf. It's Felan. I thought, to pay an homage to my mom, what better name to call it than wolf? But also to just pay respect to restaurants in general because they are teams, and I consider us to be like the wolf pack.
          There's that old saying that the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack. It's like the same could be said for a restaurant. You're only as strong as your team, so we're just building a strong team and I wanted to instill that in the team here at Wolf. That was a huge inspiration for me.

What are your two favorite dishes on the menu right now?
                  I would say the Pork Belly Tom Kha is one of my all-time favorite dishes on the menu right now. Just seeing the evolution of the dish and the progression of it, I'm just so happy with where that dish is right now, and the way that we cook it, and everything from cracking open the fresh Thai coconuts, to infusing the nuoc cham with lemongrass. The nuoc cham has the acidity and the saltiness from the fish sauce and the lime juice, and it's just a really, really nice balance of modern, traditional techniques, but also light and heavy, coming together, so that's probably one of my favorites right now.
         Then I'd say my other favorite dish right now, a staple on the Wolf menu, is Let the Beet Drop. It's got the Jackson Pollock beet puree with the yuzu and then the meringues and the beet jerky, and just the berries and the plums. It's basically a nice showcase of what we're able to do here. You've got pickles, but then you also have liquid nitrogen meringues, you've got goat cheese snow. It's like plays on classics with beets and goat cheese, but then it's just in a fun sort of new, interactive manner.

Where do you find your inspiration for creating new dishes? 
                  I draw inspiration from pretty much anywhere/ everything. It can be going out and dining. It could be at one of the most impressive three-Michelin-star restaurants, or it could be a taco truck, or it could be some little late-night Thai Town extravaganza. Then it could also be from dining experiences, but also ingredients, so going to the farmer's market and shopping, and seeing what's in season, and just talking to your food and just being like, "Okay, the pomegranates or the persimmons," or whatever it is, and just being conscious and present with the seasons and with the ingredients, and seeing what they have to offer, but then also how they want to interact together is a huge culinary muse for me.

Aside from the 10K burger on your menu, what's your favorite burger in LA?
                  I'm a huge burger guy. The 10K came back when Blais battled me to a burger battle on Top Chef and I made that burger, and Wolfgang had the burger, and he was like, "Marcel, you could be the new burger guy." I won the competition with that burger, and so I thought what better burger to put on our menu?
          But my favorite burger in LA is probably "The Morning After" at Stout Burger. Yeah, it's a good one. I'm a sucker when you put an egg on a burger, you know what I mean? I love a good egg on a burger. 

What are two favorite dishes you could eat every day?
                  Favorite two dishes I could eat every day? Tacos. I love Mexican food. I could eat tacos all day, every day. Then the other dish that I feel like I could eat every day is sushi. Japanese food, I love sushi, you know what I mean? Tacos and sushi.
Is there a particular taco place or taco truck you go to?
                 There is, yeah, yeah. El Chato, I don't know if you've ever been there. Just the chef there, she's the quintessential taco truck lady, and she's got the Gucci glasses and a beanie on and she's just like throwing down on the plancha. She's like my spirit animal. El Chato, I would say, is our go-to taco joint.
Who's your favorite dinner companion, if you had to choose?
                 That's a tossup. I'm going to go with my general manager, Matthias. We go out to restaurants and stuff like that and to be able to just riff off of somebody and be able to notice and just pick everything up because it's like when we go out to a nice restaurant, I have the capability of turning it off and just being like, "Oh, let me get some food." But when I really want to analyze something, he's great because we'll pick up on the details in the service, and every little facet of the gem, and to somebody who's dining with another sort of elevated hospitality industry professional, and to be able to like, "Oh, this would work at Wolf," or, "This wouldn't work at Wolf," or, "Oh, I really like what they did here." To just be engaged, I would have to go with my GM.

What's next on the horizon for you?
                  For me, continuing to do what we're doing, and just making sure that Wolf and Beefsteak is creating phenomenal experience for people. But I think Wolf is ready for a little bit of expansion. We're thinking about picking it up and taking it on the road, and doing another one, and just kind of creating a little wolf pack of Wolves all across the country.

Plating the mushroom risotto like a delicate work of art. 

Brussels sprouts with fish caramel, watermelon radish, and lime. 

Pork Belly Tom Kha with black tiger shrimp,
black kale, cherry tomato, pickled onion, and coriander. 

7661 Melrose Ave, 
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Sunday, October 29, 2017

There's No Place Like The Del For The Holidays

Close your eyes and imagine a magical place that is everything you can want in a holiday getaway. You enter a beautiful historic Victorian building and are greeted by a two-story tall Christmas tree that's decorated as if it came out of a storybook.  As you exit the foyer, pass the hot chocolate stands, you hum along to the tune of Let It Snow that is playing in the background. You see a crowd gather, looking up, and you notice that artificial snow is beginning to fall. There's a cool chill in the air causing the palm trees to sway and you tighten that scarf just a bit more snug while gliding down the ice on your skates. As you make another turn around the rink, you can't believe how perfect this winter wonderland on the beach really is! Yes, that's right! Snow, ice, hot cocoa, lights, and an ocean view! That's what spending the holidays is like at the Hotel del Coronado. 

S  T  A  Y

There's no doubt that the iconic Hotel del Coronado is a must-visit place on any traveler's bucket list. But that cannot be more true during the holiday season that kicks off at Thanksgiving. There is a nostalgic feeling you get when you visit this place during that time. It feels magical. 

Maybe it's the history, the hotel has been around since 1888! In California, that seems very rare these days. The history and architecture, as well as the high level of service that has remained over the century is remarkable. It's classic California at its best - an oceanfront resort with luxury, style, and reputation. 

Step back in time to the luxurious Hotel Lobby from 1888. 
Original elevator still in operation. Once the gate opens the elevator operator will usher you to your designated floor. 

The rooms at Hotel del Coronado are spacious, comfortable and boasts some of the most incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

Private balcony from the room overlooking the ocean. 

D  I  N  E

For Thanksgiving, the hotel hosts a lavish buffet with everything you can think of for the perfect holiday feast and more. Carving stations with with perfectly roasted turkey, melt-in-your-mouth prime rib, and traditional hams are all available. Made-to-order salads and an array of seafood options (yes there's lobster mac and cheese and crab legs) round out your dinner. Go back for seconds or thirds, but save room for the tables full of desserts. Everything from pumpkin pie to chocolate fondue is sure to give you a sugar high, something you'll need to prolong the inevitable but oh-so-worth-it food coma. Yes, the food at Hotel del Coronado is on another level. It's quality and not just quantity that you can expect at the Historic Crown Room Buffet. 

Turkey carving station

On-sight garden grows fresh herbs and vegetables for the hotel restaurants. 

P  L  A  Y

Anytime is a great time for visiting The Del, but there's something extra special about staying there during the holiday season. From Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, The DELights  holiday experience makes you feel like you're transported into a winter wonderland of illumination. Snow falls as a giant holiday light display illuminates the Garden Patio and historic balconies. In the month of December, carolers serenade you with holiday songs. By the beach is a spectacular ice rink. Skating by the Sea is as amazing as it sounds. 

For families there's always something to do like gingerbread house workshops lead by Pastry Chef Daphne, and story time with Mrs. Claus. Bike tours around Coronado Island are a fun way to get your mileage in. But if you're looking to relax a bit, take advantage of the world-class spa and that classic pool. There's something really special about Hotel Del Coronado that makes it like no other place  for the Holidays. 

DELights experience in the Garden Patio.

1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118

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Special thanks to Hotel del Coronado for collaborating with Hungry in LA. 
As always, the content and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Grand Velas Los Cabos: Beyond All Inclusive, Beyond Compare

Photography by Eddie Sanchez

There’s a place that’s sunny and beautiful where the ocean breeze sweeps through the swaying palm trees. You relax by the pool, looking out to the Sea of Cortez while drinking a perfectly made cocktail. You sip, savor, and unwind, listening to the roaring sound of the waves crashing on the shore. This is the ultimate getaway in a real life paradise - and it’s only a two hour plane ride from LA. Welcome to Grand Velas Los Cabos

View from guest room suite balcony.


The newly opened beachfront resort is your ultimate luxury escape, boasting dramatic ocean views and unique spaces throughout the property. As soon as you walk through the impressive open-air entrance that’s over three stories tall, your eyes catch views of the water while you stand 300 feet above sea level. Grand and spectacular are understatements, as you check-in to one of 304 ocean view suites with private terraces and some with personal plunge pools. 

Ambassador suite - smallest guest room but still 1,180 sq. feet with ocean views and a jacuzzi tub. 

Grand Class Suite


Beyond all-inclusive is the experience at Grand Velas Los Cabos. Yes, I know you have experienced all-inclusive before, but trust me, not like this. An elevated premium beverage program is on-sight offering the best spirits, beers and wine. There are five fine dining restaurants led by executive chef Juan Licerio Alcala and featuring two star Michelin chef Sidney Schutte. It’s hard to believe that the food served here is from an all-inclusive resort because until you have stayed at Grand Velas Los Cabos, your view on all-inclusive was probably never this luxurious. Dining is very much a highlight of staying here and that's why the resort should be on every food-loving traveler’s list of places to visit. The cuisine at Grand Velas, without a doubt, is the best we’ve ever had from any all-inclusive resort.

Lucca Restaurant - features Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

Poached local grouper with celery root puree, bone marrow and porch demi, pickled carrots.

Frida Restaurant

Pickled seafood by guest chef Katsuji Tanabe - lobster, scallop, octopus, oysters, coconut, basil, mint, chile. 

Local queso con chorizo

Craft cocktails made to order with premium spirits

Piaf Restaurant - Adults only, French cuisine

Terrine of foie gras mi-cuit & spicy bread with little poached pear stuffed with saffron chutney. 

Cocina de Autor: Creative cuisine, adults only. Helmed by two star Michelin chef Sidney Schutte. 
Smoked swordfish tart with citrus salad, cucumber and sea asparagus. 

Outdoor dining spaces with breathtaking ocean views. 

Poolside dining options - Baja style fish tacos.

Azul - casual all day dining with buffet options. 

24 hour in-room dining makes for a great way to have breakfast delivered to you. 


Of course a true Cabo getaway isn't complete without a visit to the spa. The two-level, 35,000 sq. ft. Spa at Grand Velas Los Cabos is one of the best spa experiences you’ll have. Your treatment is preceded by a seven step water journey that features a eucalyptus-scented steam room with chromotherapy, polar pool, aromatherapy sensory shower, sauna, Jacuzzi and multi-sensory pool. The main pool features several hydro elements such as powerful massaging faucets for your neck and back, as well as bubble beds - carved-stone chaises with jets set right underneath the surface of the water on which you recline. A spa valet provides personalized direction to make sure you get the most out of the truly relaxing hydrotherapy experience. Upon completion of the journey, you recline on heated loungers with warm neck pillows, cool scented towels and cucumbers on the eyes to ensure the body is fully relaxed and ready for your massage. 

All gender central pool features several hydro elements.  

Ice Room - part of the seven step water journey during hydrotherapy.

Couple's treatment rooms with private spa.

It's difficult to compare Grand Velas Los Cabos to anything else because it has set the bar very high on what a beachfront all-inclusive resort should look like. With a world-class spa, superior culinary program, and excellent service, this beautiful property is tough to beat. After many visits to Cabo, experiencing several different resorts, both all-inclusive and non-all-inclusive, Grand Velas Los Cabos has become our favorite. It's indeed beyond all-inclusive, meeting your every need and stands beyond compare.

Three infinity pools all with different temperatures and amenities such as a swim up bar. 

Iconic open-air lobby overlooks the ocean. 

Beach cabanas with full service from the ceviche bar. 

Grand Velas Los Cabos
Carretera Transpeninsular Km 173 Corredor TurĂ­stico Los Cabos
23405 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico

Special thanks to Grand Velas Los Cabos for collaborating with Hungry in LA. As always, the content and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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