Sunday, January 29, 2006

James' Beach in Venice

I had hoped to post last night from my hotel room in Los Angeles, but I grew frustrated with the wireless keyboard and TV-screen internet and gave up. A word of advice: NEVER try to use the internet with that setup! First of all, there’s no mouse. So you’re stuck with arrow keys. Aaarrgghh. Second, your cursor, when you’re in a text box, is nearly invisible. Third, the keyboard was horrible. It stuck and skipped letters constantly. After 10 minutes, I’d typed only 2 sentences! I wanted to scream and throw the thing at the TV. Yes, I know, I should have brought my laptop. But I didn’t think I’d want to get on the internet, and I didn’t think I’d have time. Lesson learned.

Last week I had asked Kristy of Best of LA to recommend some places to eat in Venice or Marina del Rey. She recommended several restaurants, and I narrowed it down to Chart House and James’ Beach. Since I’ve been to a Chart House before, and I wanted to try some place new, I decided on James’ Beach. Fantastic choice! It was easy to find–north on Lincoln, west on Venice, pull up in front of the restaurant entrance and use their valet parking. James’ Beach is divided in half as you come in, with the left side being sort of outdoors, and the right side indoors. Since I’m not a smoker, I let them seat me at a small table indoors. There were about 8 people eating and drinking at the bar, all twenty-somethings, and three other couples at tables. As soon as I sat down, a waiter brought out what my mom would call “a relish tray,” a small plate with fresh broccoli, radishes, and celery, and a small bowl a ranch-type dressing. I perused the wine list, hoping to see a riesling, but didn’t. I asked the waitress what she would recommend to someone who liked sweet white wines, and she suggested the Cayman Conundrum. Interesting name. It’s a California wine, and I haven’t been able to find out much about it on the net. But I liked it. It wasn’t as sweet as a riesling, but it was light and fruity and went well with my heavy dinner.

First up was salad. I had heard about James’ Beach’s wedge salad, and knew that it had lots of blue cheese on it. I asked for it to be chopped, as I knew that I didn’t want to be cutting up a whole wedge of iceberg lettuce. My salad came covered with wonderful, tangy blue cheese, and was just heavenly. I couldn’t finish it all, though, as it was a pretty hearty size. I couldn’t help but think about the wasted years–I always thought I hated blue cheese. I remember when I was a child, Daddy would be served a “relish plate” before dinner–celery, radishes, carrots, green onions, and a few chunks of blue cheese. My brothers and sisters helped him eat it, but I turned my nose up at cheese that looked moldy and smelled nasty. My, how things have changed. Now I eat blue cheese every chance I get–on salads and on steaks.

James’ Beach has a daily specials menu, but I never really looked hard at it once I spied the calves’ liver on the main menu. I grew up eating liver, usually beef liver, but have not had much during the last few years while my daughter has lived with us. To me, calves’ liver is a luxury, and tastes so much better than beef liver. James’ Beach serves theirs with both sautéed onions and three pieces of pancetta, as well as a rich brown sauce. It’s accompanied by a large serving of creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin. The creamed spinach was rich–definitely real cream in that recipe. The potatoes were square-cut, and offset the liver quite well. I think I actually moaned in pleasure with the first few bites of dinner.

Dessert presented itself with many great choices. My waitress brought out a tray to show me what all the offerings looked like: chocolate layer cake, pecan pie, chocolate pudding, carrot cake, cappuccino mousse, lemon tart, and she told me about the sundae (ball of vanilla ice cream rolled in pecans and topped with fudge sauce) and sorbets (chocolate, lemon, and berry). I went with the lemon tart, and have no regrets. It was a good-sized wedge, with a tasty crust, tangy lemon filling,a and fresh whipped cream on top–almost like a lemon meringue pie.

After I got back to the hotel, I told some friends about it, and we decided we’d go as a group next State Council meeting. I can’t wait to go back!

6 comments:

Kalyn said...

Hey, my brother lives in Venice. I will have to ask him if he has been to this place.

BoLA said...

Hey Cyndi! Glad you enjoyed your visit to James' Beach. I like the vibe it has at night, but hear they have a fabulous brunch! Great review! I love the beach shorts they have over there and the matching beach shirts over at Canal Club!

Patti said...

Great Review Cyndi. I LOVE liver, but nobody else will touch it in my house. Ahhh, liver and onions...

Ruth said...

Loved this post and was actually drooling when you described the liver and creamed spinach - one of my all time favorite meals and since my honey hates it, I usually only get to eat it out.

Thanks for sharing.

Randi said...

I grew up in Santa Monica, and have traveled on Lincoln many times. Im a long way from there now, but thanks for the memories.

Jeanne said...

Hi Cyndi
When we were in LA in October we went to a place called Tony P's which was right in Marina Del Rey and we loved it. The seafood was great, as was my pulled pork, and the menu was really extensive. Plus you are right in the marina - view is really lovely at night. Definitely worth a try if you go again and not that expensive!