Where Celebs Go Out: America Ferrera, Harvey Keitel, Hope Davis

At the premiere of Our Family Wedding:

● AMERICA FERRERA – “My favorite restaurant of the moment is Broadway East, on the Lower East Side.” ● CHARLIE MURPHY – “I’ve been going to this Mexican restaurant in New Jersey. I think it’s called El Torito, whatever. That’s one of them. I go to so many restaurants. This is what I want to explain, so no one’s insulted. I’m on the road 48 weeks of the year in different towns, and I go to a lot of restaurants, so to ask me what my favorite restaurant is, is kind of a hard question to answer. I like going to Baja Fresh in L.A.” ● GRETCHEN ROSSI – “In Newport Beach, it’s Flemings. It’s a steakhouse, and I eat the steak and potatoes and everything that you can imagine on the menu. But I just eat small portions, so that you get a taste of everything.”

● LANCE GROSS – “I love Tao here in New York. I don’t get to New York a lot, but the Cafeteria. I love the Cafeteria. I do all the nightclubs. I don’t even know the names. I just go into them.” ● REGINA KING – “Right now, I’m really loving Osteria Mozza in L.A., Mario Batali’s restaurant. It’s so funny because where he opened was a place in L.A. that there’s been four restaurants that tried to make it there; came; spent a lot of money; closed down. And he has been booming, banging with business, and rightfully so. So, if you go and get the oxtail ragu — oh, my God! Hah! It is so good, and mmmm, the pizza next door is even better, because it’s Nancy Silverton from La Brea Bakery making the dough. I love to eat, clearly.” ● PRAS – “Geez! Right now it’s gotta be Dylan Prime. That’s in my neighborhood. Every time I’m out of town, I always take a trip back to Dylan. I feel like I’ve landed back home. Do you like steak? I love — I’m a big meat eater, despite all the things they tell you about eating charred beef.”

At the opening of A Behanding in Spokane on Broadway:

● HARVEY KEITEL – “A candy store in Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn. It was called Ali Baba & the 40 Thieves.” ● ANTHONY MACKIE – “Hey, book that is black! I love to go down to STK. One of my very favorite restaurants is Three Sisters, on Madison and 124th — the best Caribbean food you can find in New York. ● JENNIFER MORRISON – “I have had no chance to discover that yet because we just opened last night. Where in L.A.? I love Madeo restaurant. We eat there all the time. Dan Tana’s, some of the usual spots. I’m a huge fan of spaghetti and meat sauce. It’s my weakness, anywhere I go.” ● ZOE KAZAN – “I love your magazine! I haven’t been going to a lot of bars or clubs lately. I’ve been going to theater hangouts, like the West Bank Cafe or Bar Centrale. In my neighborhood, I love Buttermilk Channel, which is a restaurant in Cobble Hill or Frankie’s 457. I like the fried chicken at Buttermilk Channel.” ● MARTIN MCDONAGH – “Angus McIndoe.” ● HUGH JACKMAN – “Oh, c’mon!”

● DANA IVEY – “I don’t want to give it away ’cause too many people will go there. I don’t want to say because it’ll be infiltrated by everybody, and I won’t get a seat! No, but Joe Allen’s is always good. That’s one of my faves. Oh, they have this great, great salad that I really, really like — trevisano, something, I can’t remember, but that’s what I get every time.” ● HOPE DAVIS –Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn.” ● JOAN HAMBURG – “You mean in this neighborhood? I love to go to Orso’s. Oh, I like a lot of places. I like Blue Hill downtown. I got a list!” ● SARAH PAULSON – “One of them is a secret. I don’t want anybody else to know about it, so I won’t talk about that place. I love a place called Café Cluny, on 12th Street and West 4th Street, down in the Village. Any favorite dish? The burger and the Cluny. It’s a giant martini, which is always really good. I’m, kind of, like a person who only goes to places that are in the neighborhood I happen to be standing in, in the moment, which is what’s so great about New York — you’re bound to turn around and hit something great.” ● MARCIA GAY HARDEN – “Oh, God, we never go out. Honestly, we don’t go out. Our living room, our kitchen, our dining room. What about in L.A.? Oh, God, I wouldn’t say L.A. before New York! I couldn’t possibly say L.A. before New York. Okay, wait! We like Settepani in Harlem. We love Orso. We love Orso.” ● STACY KEACH – “It’s a tough one, isn’t it? There’s so many. Joe’s restaurant in Venice. Everything is good, but I, particularly, like steak ‘n eggs, yeah. In New York, there’s so many wonderful restaurants, and we just got here. And every time I come back to New York, I discover new places, so I’m hesitant to give you names of places.” ● PABLO SCHREIBER – “The old standards are the — what’s the place over here on 46th where we go after the show? It’s right above Joe Allen’s. Yeah, I, always forget the name of it ’cause they have no sign. [That would be Bar Centrale. -ed] That’s my favorite place for after-dinner drinks. I went to a great Greek restaurant last night, called Molyvos, on 7th Avenue between 55th and 56th. That place was pretty delicious. I had the whole fish. It was a black sea bass, and they did it perfectly. I’m a father of a 16th-month-old kid, so I don’t get out much these days.” ● DAVID HYDE PIERCE – “No, I don’t have any. I don’t have a lot of places to talk about like that.” ● LILY RABE – “I love Maialino. It’s in the Gramercy Park Hotel. It just opened. It’s amazing. Yes, it’s really good. And I love Café Cluny. Morandi. Those are my favorite places to eat. And the Breslin is also really incredible. The Breslin has this pork belly that’s one of the most memorable things I’ve ever eaten in the city.” ● JULIE TAYMORE –Craft, Maialino, Bobby Flay’s restaurant Mesa Grill.” ● TOM WAITS – “Oh, gee, I eat at home. I eat at home.” ● PAUL DANO – “Eton’s — it’s a dumpling place in Brooklyn. Po. Franny’s — all Brooklyn.” ● ANTHONY ANDERSON – “I really don’t hang out much in New York because of the work schedule that we have. But when I do, I find myself having a drink at Tillman’s. My favorite eatery would have to be Abe & Arthur’s.” ● GRIFFIN DUNNE – “I’m mostly upstate these days, so I’ve got little holes up there that I hit, in Duchess County. What do I want to plug? Gigi’s, an Italian restaurant — very, very good. I think that’s in Rhinebeck, yeah.”

The Varnish & the Art of the Cocktail

A few weeks ago I met some friends for drinks at Cole’s, one of the oldest eating establishments in Los Angeles. As I ate one of their famous French dip sandwiches, which they invented, I noticed a steady stream of people going into a little red door in the back of the room and not coming out. It was like a secret portal of some kind. (Did it lead to the Island, I wondered? Sorry, I’ve watched too much Lost.)

It turns out it was a portal — to a speakeasy set somewhere in 30s, with dark wood walls and lush, red ceilings, with little Tiffany lamps and bartenders with rolled-up shirt sleeves and pants with suspenders, and girls with flapper dresses and feathers in their hair. This would be The Varnish.

I looked over and noticed one Sasha Petraske, cocktail connoisseur of New York City, also sporting the suspenders-and-rolled-up-sleeves outfit, and thought, not too smartly, what’s he doing here?

Petraske and I go way back, thanks to me working with his mum at the Village Voice in the factchecking department. It was because of her that I was ever able to enter the ultra-exclusive confines of his very first bar, Milk and Honey in the Lower East Side.

“Hey Sasha,” I said to him, after asking about his mom. “I heard you’re opening a bar here.”

“Yeah,” he said, pointing at the floor. “This is it.”

(See I told you, I’m not too smart.)

That was just a soft opening of the Varnish — which Petraske opened with his former partner Eric Alperin, himself no cocktail slouch (see Osteria Mozza, Seven Grand, Little Branch, Milk and Honey), and a generous host to boot.

“We ‘ve been wanting to open a backroom lounge — I hate to use the term ‘speakeasy’ because we’re not a speakeasy,” said Alperin of their new project. “Something with a bit of intimacy, a bit of adventure. ”

The renovation of Cole’s last year provided a perfect opportunity in the form of a storage room. “We could build what we wanted,” said Alperin of the space in the landmarked building. “It wasn’t protected by the Historical Society, ’cause there was nothing historic.”

On a weekday, it was already looking like it would be a difficult task to get a seat in a bar that’s small enough to qualify as tiny even in New York. And on a return visit last Friday night, we waited a good 25 minutes before sitting at a two-top table. We sampled a few of their specialties, including the Palma Fizz (vodka, lime, ginger, rose water, and seltzer), which was artfully made. First, he poured a yellowish liquid into a tall glass, then he appeared to light something on fire, drizzling its contents inside (fairy dust? magic? love potion number nine?), before delicately adding the other ingredients. It was more gingery than I’d anticipated — my cohort liked the ginger beer qualities of the drink — but I was looking for something a little less tangy.

Our waitress suggested I try something so secret it wasn’t even on the menu: The Penicillin. She returned with a golden drink swallowing a giant, uncut slab of ice — a signature detail at the Varnish. It had lemon, ginger, honey, and Laphroaig. It was just the right mix of tart and sweet, a balance that the Varnish seems to strive for. Those sickly sweet drinks of your youthful indiscretions — the rum and cokes, the vodka-crans, the gin and sodas — they ruined your cocktail palate.

“I think we’re trying to bring back classic recipes, where there’s a bit more care involved, a bit more of a culinary craft.” said Alperin. “There’s not a lot of prefab ingredients or mixers.”

And there are even some ingredients that might raise your eyebrows. “People would think egg whites would be weird,” said Alperin. “I don’t find it strange … I think we have things that definitely wow the pants off of people, and that’s great.” (The egg white drink is called Eagle’s Dream, in case you’re feeling adventurous.)

My hardier friend braved a drink called Remember the Maine (rye, vermouth, heering, absinthe). I knew just by smelling it that it would grow hair on my chest. I took a sip, and though I initially thought it’d be too intense, the finish shifted and softened as our bellies warmed from the rye. It was quite pleasant, actually. She drained her glass.

Thanks to my generous friend, we’d taken a cab from Culver City ($60 round trip!) and were free to drink as much as our much-diminished tolerances could hold.

Which brings me to the awkward problem of the “new cocktailian” movement, as LA Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold has dubbed the influx of high-toned bars encroaching upon Los Angeles: How do you create a cocktail culture in a city where everyone has to drive?

“Move downtown,” laughed Alperin.

Another answer? One expertly made drink at a time.

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Los Angeles: Top 10 Desserts

image1. Frittelli’s Doughnuts & Coffee (Beverly Hills) – Designer doughnuts in a variety of tastes, shapes, and sizes (think PB&J and butterscotch drizzle). Treats are made fresh daily, and for about a buck a piece, you can easily buy a few with your leftover laundry money. 2. Murano (West Hollywood) – Murano’s menu and dessert list recently underwent an authentic Italian overhaul, adding tiramisu and ricotta-style cheesecake. 3. Toast (Mid-City West) – The red velvet cake will change your life — and so might a chance run-in with one of the many Hollywood heavyweights who brunch here.

4. The Waffle (Hollywood) – Open way past bar close (4:30 a.m. on weekends), you can sober up with a baked hot chocolate or a sticky bun waffle before bed. 5. Luna Park (Mid-City West) – End a trendy meal with a do-it-yourself dessert. The s’mores come complete with a tiny flame brought to your table for perfectly toasted marshmallows — just watch your hair. 6. Osteria Mozza (Hollywood) – A fancy-shmancy splurge, rosemary olive oil cakes top the dessert list. 7. Lark Cake Shop (Silver Lake) – The ample array of cupcakes at this modern bakery includes chocolate-, caramel-, and mocha-tastic flavors. 8. Scoops Ice Cream (Koreatown) – The ever-evolving menu includes unique pairings like salty chocolate and Corona and lime, along with the usual suspects — strawberry cheesecake, brown bread, and several fruity flavors. 9. Axe (Venice) – The huge portions of homemade bread and chocolate-brownie puddings are well worth the $5 price tag. 10. Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge (Culver City) – This upscale Korean eatery focuses on light seasonal treats like the homemade shaved-ice trifle topped with fresh fruit and mango ice cream. Almost sounds healthy.

Camilla Belle’s Favorite Restaurants: Osteria Mozza, Lucques

Actress Camilla Belle is a self-described foodie. “I’m always eating,” says the 22-year-old star of this February’s sci-fi thriller Push. So where do you eat if you’re a hot young actress in L.A. with a knowing palate and cash to burn? “Osteria Mozza. That’s my favorite restaurant, really, I go there far too often. I love the food there.” The spawn of a Batali-Silverton covenant, this reservations-are-a-must Hollywood eatery comes with its own world-famous mozzarella bar, and a sister pizzeria next door. “It’s just like you’re eating food in Italy,” raves Belle.

“Everything has so much flavor and is so delicious. The best dish is the Orecchiette with fennel sausage — I get that every single time.” Another Belle favorite is West Hollywood French-kissed Cali bistro Lucques. Despite this joint’s rep as a place for palate snobs, replete with gorgeous patio, Belle’s affinity is a little more personal. “The chef went to the same high school that I did — Suzanne Goin — which makes me like it even more. I feel a personal connection to it, but still, it’s delicious.”

Bernie Madoff Fallout Means Cheap Gelato

imageBernard Madoff has started a Hollywood face-off. It started with Nancy Silverton losing absolutely everything to the Madoff shenanigans. The lady of La Brea Bakery and Mozzas Osteria and Pizzeria has been all over the news — real and foodie — with her tale of woe and her words of warning about diversification. It looked as though Nancy had once again (though bizarrely) overshadowed Gail, the culinarily inclined but always less famous Silverton sister. But in the first bit of Madoff news that’s made me laugh, Gail sent out a press release rife with pathos, wherein she mentions briefly the two-for-one gelato deal at her Gelato Bar, but mainly discusses her $1.5 million loss to Madoff (monies apparently earmarked for financial aid programs, natch). Pulling together, suffering financially, and healing processes are also mentioned.

Could it be that getting ripped off by Madoff has become an issue of one-upmanship? Who can claim the biggest net losses, and who can get the most consumer and media sympathy out of same? At first, business owners seemed to be the only people announcing their losses, but over the weekend celebrities like Pedro Almodovar, Kyra Sedgwick, and Kevin Bacon did some fiscal wailing and gnashing of teeth too. Perhaps citizens of Los Angeles and New York will benefit from all this … free treats from gullible richies, and a bonus round for “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

One Night in Hollywood

imageDo it up in LA, Hollywood style.

Cocktails The Three Clubs – Sign-less spot to find a tattooed Ryan Adams clone to support while his band records that long-awaited demo.

Dine Osteria Mozza – A premier place, for scene and celebrity and food. Only the best of everything.

After-Dinner Drink Falcon – Falcon, Rusty and Victor make sure Beige is the new black every Tuesday with man-on-man fun perfect for a bird of prey.

Late Night Les Deux – Have a cocktail under and among the stars for some rock, or stay inside and watch Shoot the Piano Player over some rap n’ soul.

Openings: Mozzarella in Midtown, New York

imageCheese-ophiles get ready: Manna from heaven is on its way. Obikà, the popular mozzarella bar from Rome, is opening its first stateside location in midtown Manhattan. (It’s in a kiosk within the sculpture garden of 590 Madison.) New York isn’t the only city to be swept up in the mozz craze, though. Just ask Los Angeles. From Mozzarella Mondays at Jar to the mozzarella-filled pizzas at Pizzeria Mozza and the giant mozzarella bar in the middle of Osteria Mozza, mozzarella cheese might as well be the new Pinkberry. Obikà will offer burrata, bufala, and bocconcini, with sides of salads, antipasti, and wine; opens September 22.