Since one of my many gigs is being the restaurant critic for the Culver City News, I just got to attend a fabulous private mini food fest at the Historic Culver Hotel in Culver City. (This is where the munchkins stayed during the filming of The Wizard Of Oz.) It was a great way to celebrate the new year and administration, and turned out to be the party of the century! (And a great proto-type for a Superbowl one!)

Peter Dickinson, the Director of Food and Beverage for the Culver Hotel, (though, as far as I’m concerned, he’s WIZARD of that place!), turned this little foodie event into an extravaganza. He made it so much better than any of us could have ever imagined. Even the hard-to-impress Mr. X flipped for it. (Yes, he actually put in an appearance with me!)

Though the lobby lounge is a perfect party venue, (it features a bar, live music, and couch seating), and there’s another long room on that level which is excellent for events, this was held on the mezzanine. As one guest put it, “Love this room! It’s intimate and cozy, yet classy” with great acoustics. There’s a private bar, four big couch booths, and room for at least the five round tables that were in use that night. Everyone was thoroughly comfortable there, no matter their age, gender, occupation, or even level of classiness!

Peter and company set-up the food in a gorgeous fashion, with each dish displayed creatively. And kept warm with a modicum of fire! You’ll have to have your own party there to discover his secret.

It was catered by several Culver City restaurants (and Sky’s, from the close-by Pico-Fairfax area), and there appeared to be a plethora of edibles. There was no possibility of running out of food, as happens too often at even the best of soirees.

Here’s what we devoured and (since I loved it all) some of the other attendees’ comments (the ones in quotes), in no particular order–just make sure to read them all, or you’ll miss out:

Culver Hotel –Smoked Salmon on Tomato and Caper Pancake with Horseradish Creme Fraiche & Turkey Sliders with Manchego, Heirloom Tomato, Pancetta and Smoked Chili Ketchup.
Besides providing the exquisite venue, the hotel added a touch of class with these “amazing,” enormous, passed appetizers. People were especially “thrilled” to see the smoked salmon ones. I don’t know how Peter thinks up these creative dishes!
9400 Culver Blvd. 310-558-9400 www.culverhotel.com

Sky’s Gourmet Tacos–Caramel Crunch Cheesecake & Pineapple Cheesecake.
By popular demand (from people who’ve had them before), these super-creamy cheesecakes served as one of only two desserts. (Trust me, no other ones were necessary with these around!) The Mexican food here is delicious, as well, of course. (I’ve paid them several visits over the past couple of years, after discovering them at a gifting suite, of all places!) Even though there were signs stating each dish and where it was from, most guests had to double-check to make sure they were reading correctly–that “the best cheesecakes ever” were from a taco restaurant! They may have to change their name to “Sky’s Gourmet Taco’s and CHEESECAKES!”
5408 W. Pico Blvd. 323-932-6253 www.skygourmettacos.com

Hoagies And Wings–Lemon-Pepper Wings & Garlic-Parmesan Wings.
“Love, love, love” the “awesome” “crispy” wings. The panel was split on which flavor they favored, lauding them both. (Shockingly for me, an anything- lemon eschewer, I loved the lemon ones.) They were also deemed the “perfect party-size.” With how many wings they so generously provided, there could have been ten times as many invitees.
11172 Washington Blvd. 310-839-0776 www.hoagiesandwings.com

Brunello Trattoria–Penne with Checca & Fusilli with Pesto Sauce & Pizza Bread.
Again, the guests loved both pastas. Mr. X said the checca was so delicious he “had to go back for more!,” which is quite the compliment considering the variety of goodies to choose from. We all loved that these were healthful sauces, so we could fill up on them without worrying about our diets. And have a chunk of the pizza bread, too!
6001 Washington Blvd. 310-280-3856

Pampas Grill–Fried Plantains & Cheese Bread.
As this Brazilian churrascaria is one of the most popular eateries around, many of the guests instantly recognized the “melt-in-your-mouth” plantains and “unbelievably good” cheese bread. I was so happy I wasn’t wearing a tight outfit, so I could consume oodles of them. (But don’t worry about the hotness of my wardrobe–my dress was short and my heels were high!)
3857 Overland Ave. Culver City 310-836-0080 www.pampas-grill.com

LaRocco’s Pizzeria–Cheese Pizza.
Everyone agreed this pizza is “just like New York!” No higher compliment can be paid to pizza, trust me. And the gracious owners, Paul and Sue, kept them coming hot and fresh all night. One guest from the Valley declared it “the best” she’s had “in 20 years,” and said it depressed her. When I asked why, she answered, “because it’s nowhere near my house!”
3819 Main Street 310-837-8345 www.laroccospizzeria.com

Samosa House–Potato Samosas.
The vegetarians, especially, were thrilled with these delicious triangles filled with potatoes and peas, personal faves of mine. “Samosas rock!” is a typical comment I got about them. A special Indian sauce accompanied them, but wasn’t even necessary because they’re so incredible on their own.
11510 W. Washington Blvd. 310-398-6766

Golden China–Chicken Chow Mein.
Some “went nuts” over these tasty noodles, and I agree. The chicken added the perfect texture. I’ve been craving them ever since the party ended. I can see why it’s one of their signature dishes.
9018 Venice Blvd. 310-559-0116 www.goldenchinaculvercity.com

Sorrento Italian Market–Meatballs & Sausages & Garden Vegetable Salad & Rolls.
“Who knew a garden salad could be so tasty?” It was the welcome complement to the “unbelievable sausages” and “excellent meatballs.” Some chose to make their own little sandwiches with the fresh rolls, but lots of us just went to town commando-style.
5518 Sepulveda Blvd. 310-391-7654

Subway (24 hours!)–Assorted Giant Cookies.
Who knew Subway had cookies??? The flavors are: double chocolate (my fave), chocolate chip, peanut butter, white chocolate macadamia, M & M, and Mr. X’s favorite, oatmeal raisin. They seemed to get equal compliments. I saw several people trying to sneak them before they were even being offered!!! Something about these cookies channels one’s inner child, I guess, which is a good thing.
3817 S. Sepulveda Blvd. 310-397-1515 www.subway.com


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