Epicurean Gem – Dining with David Tanis at Lulu Restaurant

My recent foray to Beverly Hills included a delightful, delicious lunch at Lulu at the Hammer Museum in Westwood. The museum exhibition was ho-hum, our leisurely déjeuner in the open-air courtyard was superb! A new exhibition based on Joan Didion opens October 11, scurry to LA for the perfect recipe of delectable dining and museum afternoon! I may have to make a return trip. Or ignore the museum altogether and just enjoy dining in a very special location.

Not far from downtown Beverly Hills, the newish Lulu’s is a collaboration between famed chef, New York Times writer and prolific cookbook author David Tanis and the Bay Area’s Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. David, who is well-known for his New York Times cooking column, worked at Chez Panisse, on and off for nearly 25 years. They are old chums, enjoying decades of friendship and a mutual love of cooking and sustainability. When approached by UCLA to open the restaurant, David was Alices’ only choice as a partner.

Lulu is committed to prioritizing sustainability through local, regenerative food and design. If you follow David on Instagram, his Farmers Market selections provide inspiration for the daily menu. Lulu’s mission focuses on procuring food directly from small, nearby farms practicing regenerative organic agriculture, which results in wholesome, delicious food grown using methods that combat the climate crisis. The Lulu website lists numerous small farms who supply chef and kitchen team with seasonal fruit and vegetables. And of course, there is a lovely wine and cocktail menu.

The restaurant is named after a wise Provencal cook, Lulu Peyraud, whose cooking and hospitality at Domaine Tempier in Bandol, France has always inspired David and Alice.

At lunch, Lulu offers a popular three-course $45 prix fixe menu as well as an à la carte selection of salads, soups, sandwiches, light lunch fare, coffee, tea, and desserts. For supper, Lulu offers an à la carte selection of small bites, appetizers, entrées, and desserts curated around the produce in season. Staying true to their ethos of “market cooking,” the menus change daily depending on what is the very best available from local farms.

The outdoor setting under a canopy of umbrellas and dangling paper lanterns is perfect. Massive raw salvaged wood planks are stacked with bowls of gorgeous fresh apples and persimmons, whatever is seasonal. Simple and clean, the message is abundantly clear in the design and decor. Dating the menu is symbolic of the narrative, it’s fresh from the market or farm.

The menu will change constantly. The a la carte menu may offer a combination of soups and salads and sandwiches; three-course prix fixe allows David to shape meals with a gastronomic narrative. Like all the recipes from David’s cookbooks, the dishes are designed to be straightforward and uncomplicated. One year, David personally signed his cookbooks as a gift to our clients.

Our meal choices were based on David’s recommendation and for me, trying an option from one of his cookbooks. I adored a starter of Jumbo Medjool Dates, his roasted rosemary almonds served with a jagged chunk of Parmesan cheese.. the perfect bite to peruse the menu. David transforms simple to glorious! My Chicken a la Milanese was scrumptious, as was a shared plate of farm ripened Caprese salad with black olive toast. We also shared a satisfying plate of Ricotta gnocchi with zucchini and squash blossoms. All yummy! Sticking with the seasonal menu for dessert, we scooped up every bite of the gooey Nectarine blackberry crumble.

Lulu serves lunch and supper Tuesday through Sunday – check website for hours and directions.

Highly Recommend Lulu and we can reserve the perfect Beverly Hills hotel, tell David you are dining – and perhaps you will enjoy a hello with Alice and a tour of the kitchen with David, as I did!

Thank you, dear David, for the special attention. Your follower and friend, Gwen

Hammer Museum upcoming Exhibit –  Joan Didion: What She Means

“If One Had But A Single Glance To Give To The World, One Should Gaze on Istanbul.” Alphonse de Lamartine 

In 2010, from a post on my website: I am still attempting to master the path of professional gypsy, more practice is necessary; but until then, please enjoy my latest adventure to the beguiling city of Istanbul. Adventure beckons and a random invitation from an old dear friend, Gwenda come with me, leads me back to Istanbul. All our original clients visited, it was kind of a joke, that many would pass each other in the Blue Mosque.

For centuries described as the intoxicating meeting between East and West, Istanbul has served as the capital of three of the greatest empires in Western history and is on the legendary gateway between Europe and Asia. These days, the city is on the thrilling edge of age-old tradition and modernity.
Wherever I travel, I’ve always been obsessed with ancient colorful tiles, in Portugal, a museum is devoted to tiles. Spanish floor tiles with vibrant splashes of color, geometric swirls, and patterns. Italian tiles have long been regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. Arabian influences and pottery design influenced many European countries. Turkish ceramics are among the oldest in the world and greatly influenced both the design world and global manufacturing methods. In the 13th Century, tiles were used to decorate only the important places of prominence, such as palaces, mosques, and tombs. Tiles were extensively used in places of worship; the floor and wall tiles used in Mosques helped the sound resonate during prayer. The specific type of tiles used for this purpose were usually Iznik tiles.

This tile panel is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It dates back to the second half of the 16th century from Iznik, Turkey during the Ottoman Empire

The most popular sites in Istanbul brimming with tiles include: Hagia Sophia – filled with 30 Million Gold Tiles. A little smaller and harder to find is the Rustem Pasha Mosque. One of the smaller mosques in the city, it was built by Rustem Pasa in 1561 and is noted for the very fine tiles covering the interior and exterior walls. An  Ottoman mosque located in the Hasırcılar Çarşısı (Strawmat Weavers Market) in the Tahtakale neighborhood of the Fatih district of Istanbul, Turkey, near the Spice Bazaar.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul by Oldypak lp
Haig Sophia

The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is famous for its large quantities of İznik tiles in a very wide variety of floral and geometric designs, which cover not only the façade of the porch but also the mihrab, minbar and walls. There are approximately 2300 tiles arranged in around 80 different patterns. These tiles exhibit the early use of Armenian bole, a tomato-red pigment that would become characteristic of İznik pottery. While this red hue is applied more thinly on most of the tiles, it was applied heavily on the tiles near the qibla wall and appeared scarlet in color.  The bright emerald green color is only used in a panel added above an exterior doorway later, and a study of the qibla tiling indicates that turquoise was the greenest hue available to the mosque’s builders prior to the addition of that emerald green. Some of the tiles, particularly those in a large panel under the portico to the left main entrance, are decorated with sage green and dark manganese purple that are characteristic of the earlier ‘Damascus ware’ color scheme.  No other mosque makes such a lavish use of İznik tiles; with later mosques Sinan used tiles more sparingly.

Tile Panel in Rüstem Paşa Mosque

After you’ve sorted through the trinkets and textiles in the Grand Bazaar, mosey to the Spice Market.  Rustem Pasha Mosque (Rüstem Paşa Camii) is a hidden gem of a mosque that some describe as a miniature Blue Mosque, without the crowds. It’s a little tricky to find but it’s well worth it – the stunning beauty of the interior is matched by the feeling of finding a little oasis amid a hectic area.
The mosque is open from 10 am-6 pm every day but is closed to visitors during prayer times. There is no Rustem Pasha Mosque ticket price, but donations are welcome.

Rüstem Paşa Mosque

Finding Rüstem Paşa Mosque isn’t obvious, but it also isn’t impossible.  Head past Yeni Camii (New Mosque) towards the entrance of the Spice Bazaar, but turn right when you reach Mehmet Efendi Kurukahveci (Turkish coffee shop). At the end of this road, there is a small entrance to the mosque on the right-hand side that you will have to climb stairs to reach.

Arriving in Istanbul for the first time, one is unprepared for the dazzling mosques and minarets, the sparkling Bosphorus Strait, your grade school history classes come to life: Constantinople, Byzantine architecture, the supremely elegant Sultan Palaces, Mosques with a dizzying array of blue tiles, soaring vaulted ceilings; oh, and did I mention the muezzin calling out the five-time daily call to prayer. In Istanbul, many of the mosques do not use a taped prayer call; each haunting rendition is individually sung, I find it very calming and reflective. Here, finally, I was allowed to visit a mosque.
Excellent restaurants, the Spice Market, exploring the Grand Bazaar, a week covers all of Istanbul, if you have more days, we can add Cappadocia and many other fascinating beautiful sites in Turkey. Sufi dancers mesmerize audiences in a small venue, music underground in an ancient water cistern, ancient hammam, a temple to the ancient soak and scrub ritual – so many activities besides enjoying the historic venues.