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April 25, 2001     Beverly Hills Weekly
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American History By Andrea Lita Rademan Los Angeles weather is an endless succession of sunny days followed by starry nights..And at Spago, home of Wolfgang Puck, America's most lamous chef, the stars are not only those visible above the century old olive trees (cost: $250: transportation and installation: $18,000). The biggest names in Hollywood are drawn to the sublime food, which is why you're as likely to spot Julia Child as Julia Roberts among the diners. Wolfgang Puck's vivacious part- ner-wife, Barbara Lazaroff, designs the restaurants. In this case inspiration came from her poem, the flame of life. Lazaroff installed the kitchen behind glass panels I didn't ":~' want the schmutz and the noise inset with amber, jade and ,::,. amethyst flames and repeated the motif in the carpeting, the chair backs and the Italian glass sconces that flank original Picassos, Hockneys and Motherwells. The increase in Spago-ing has not spawned a rise in spa-going. Puck, and chef de cuisine Lee Hefter, emphasize freshness and flavor in their classical French, Iraditional Austrian, cutting-edge Asian and modern California dishes backed by an outstanding wine cellar. The zenith is agnolof ti fonduta made with white corn, goat cheese, morel and chanterelle mushrooms in summer, and in winter with mas- carpone, reggiano and French black truffles. Puck also does a few ol' his childhood favorites, the best being a n~ar]{.)\~,r- enhanced broth witli a ctoudlike nlarrow dunlpling. Pastry chef Sherry Yarda's souffles, tarts and mignardiscs (tiny candies and cookies) are legendary. The original Spago opened in 1982 when investors enticed a promising young chef to open an upscale pizzeria in a vacant building on Sunset Boulevard. The son of an Austrian coal miner, he peeled potatoes in a hotel kitchen at age 13 before working his way to Los Angeles and into ihe heart of a supermarket produce manager's daughter. She Wo/fgangPuck was studying biochemistry but soon turned to interior design. With more imagination than funds and a unique per- sonal style, she infused Spago with casual chic. Wolf, in clogs and a chef's jacket with no name on the pocket, infused it with casual albeit luscious cuisine. It was fab- ulous, friendly and fun. Flash forward two sons, fame and fortune and 20 pets (including a llama) later. There are Spagos in Las Vegas, Chicago, Mexico City, Tokyo and Northern California, three of LA's leading restaurants (including Chinois on Main and Granita), Wolfgang Puck Cafes opening everywhere, a line of super- market foods, videos, cookbooks and a popular TV cooking show. But the seeming- ly tireless couple somehow manages to support endless humanitarian causes. Most famously, for Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to shut-ins, they created the American Wine & Food Festival, which attracts the country's top chefs. And they attract top staff. The unrelenting popularity of Chinois on Main is due in large measure to Bella Lantsman, a former French teacher l'rom the Ukraine who is one of LA's most popular people. She's made regulars of Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman, and fans from as far away as Singapore and Taiwan. Here the cuisine is Chinese-French with Japanese, Italian and Californian overtones. Curried oysters, grilled Mongolian lamb chops and whole sizzling catfish have become classics. Charles Bronson begins his Sundays at Granita with chef Jennifer Naylor's seven grain cereal and sundried cherries; Michael Eisner and Barbra Streisand arc partial to the crispy potato galette with smoked salmon, dil'l cream and caviar; grilled free range chicken is Johnny Carson's favorite; Maurice Jarre prefers his oysters on rhubarb-ginger granita, the shaved ice dish the restaurant is named for. Forbes mag- azine named Puck the top money earner in his profession and The New York Times called Puck and Lazaroff the first restaurateurs to realize that rich Americans longed for great food without formality. By providing it, an Austrian chef, his Bronx-born wife, and their Eastern and Western European, Asian, Latin and African team have propelled a gussied up pizza joint to the most famous restaurant empire in America. Here, it's not where you start that matters, but where you end up. THE BEST OF FRANCE. ITALY. GERMANY. SPAIN. GREECE Romantic candlelight dining in a true European atmosphere. Experience an exciting menu featuring succulent specialties gathered from the very heart of the traditional culinary arts of Europe. Reservations recommended Jackets are optional Phone (310) 652-7000 401N LaCienegaBoulevard (between Melrose & Beverly) www.europarestaurant.com Los Angeles, CA90048 Note: Just out: Wolfgang Puck's Pizza, Pasta and More! (Random House $35). In the introduction, Puck says, "When I set out to write this book, I envisioned a col- lection that would be accessible to everyone, one that would be fun to cook from and filled with simple and wonderful dishes that wouldn't require elaborate ingredients and complicated techniques. Casual and easy to prepare, these are dishes everyone can make and enjoy. We need only add that color photos of food, and some of Puck behind the scenes, plus recipes that are mostly one to a page and include signature dishes such as Smoked Salmon Pizza and Roasted Beet Napoleon, make this a must- have for any cookbook collector. Ill 4 Beverly Hills Weekly Essence of European Cuisine Royal Persian Cuisine Original Persian Cuisine - your Healthy Choice=. 1422 Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles (310) 470-3242 . (310) 470-9131 , (310) 474-1700 Esl~han, tl~ Pt~d~n lmNqL is hem to ~ of the grt~est cultural s~hts, ;i will = tl~ tmditlo~! l~rsk=n w~ft to pk,~sl ~ 9u~ with th~ b~st rt, cIpes Perd~ I~s to offtr. Shelwrz~l R~ttmmnt arid the $~=dqt Fqmlty keqq~ th~s I~mutlfui ~n of ~ndl~l ho~pitglity and w~m~ =ih~ in their restaurants. BEER " WINE IF YOU'RE NOT A MEAT EATER; TRY OUR FABULOUS FISH ENTREES Catering for All Occasions! UP TO 150 PeOl Parties. Office Conferences, Weddings, Bar-Bat Mitzvahs - Or an Intimate Dinner for Two We deliver your favorite Persian dishes to you without any additional costs. Open 11"30 ~.t~ - Midnight Fri - Sat. 11:30 a.m. - 4 ~l.m, J ckil SlIIi gua irlsl II Lel C~ chi 1 rn~ Pr t~