Why Mirabelle is the Best Wine Bar in the Valley!

It’s crazy to me that I have had this Mirabelle blog in edit mode for the last 8 months.  It’s been too hard to write because I love this place too much. It’s the best wine bar in the valley, yet it feels like home to me. But after trying their Sunday prix fix this last week, I found ANOTHER reason to love Mirabelle, and have no excuse to keep this spot to myself. It’s finally time to share with all of you why Mirabelle is the best wine bar in the valley!

WINE: It’s pretty obvious, but to be an amazing wine bar, you need to have great wine. Mirabelle Wine bar is led by passionate owners Nick Caballero and David Gibbs, who know a thing or two about incredible wine. (If you are familiar with Bar Covell or Augustine Wine bar, Mirabelle comes from the same family.  Consider Mirabelle their sibling/step sibling.) And then you have Claire Coppi managing, helping curate the wine list, and making you a fan girl of wines you never knew you wanted to try.

Mirabelle’s wine selection is unique and very well curated, showcasing a wide variety of classics in addition to more obscure “nerdy” unicorns that pop up from time to time for those who are feeling adventurous. They pour from solid producers from across the world who are making quality, balanced wines that are true to their type. (When you get a Northern Rhône Syrah, it is a legit example of what that wine should be.) With this wide variety you could drink a big, juicy California red and then the next time a tannic Italian Nebbiolo. And still, it’s still price-friendly for you to enjoy and order another round.

And then there is the vintage board, where you get to relish insane vintages that I can’t believe I get the opportunity to taste! I can tell Nick and Dave pour their heart out as they hunt down vintages or bring in vintage bottles from their personal collections. Being able to try such a variety of things every time I go in, I recently had an “a ha moment” with a taste of a 1988 Ritchie Creek Cabernet that has now changed my barometer for what a true expression of a Napa Cab could taste like!

People:

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

Yes, Mirabelle feels like my Cheers bar! I don’t believe their selection of wine is the only thing that makes Mirabelle the gem that it is. But what makes Mirabelle special is the people behind the bar working hard to make it the best possible guest experience. I adore these people: Nick, Claire, Travis, Josiah, and Chef Shane. These are the people who, day in and out, make it worth coming back. This is why Mirabelle Wine Bar seems so personal to me, I feel like everyone who works there is family. Whether I’m in need of a low-key happy hour moment, or want to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the most special way, I want to do this in the safety of my wine home supported by this amazing wine crew.

It wasn’t until I celebrated Mirabelle’s One Year anniversary, that I heard other regulars saying the same thing. I thought I was the special one, but other regulars had similar stories. That is when I realized the strength that this wine crew has, giving everyone the feeling of safety and home in a beautiful place. Whether you are the most knowledgeable wino, or a guest that knows nothing except differentiating between red and white, the Mirabelle wine crew takes care of you as if you are family.

Location: I remember moving back to LA from NY to live with my parents for a year in Valley Village, heartbroken to leave all of my local bars in the East Village. (Yes, when you live on opposite sides of the country from your family, the bar becomes your home away from home.) I felt disconnected. I missed my local bar. The Valley had gotten a little bit cooler since my high school days, but still nothing in comparison to my NY spots. There wasn’t a place that felt special and mine.

Fast forward to Mirabelle opening not only in the valley, but a few streets from my childhood home in Valley Village. I can 100 percent say there is NOTHING like this bar around the area, and couldn’t be a more perfect and much needed addition to the neighborhood. Mirabelle is exactly what the valley needed. And yet, most of their regulars live all over Los Angeles, from the west side to the east side, proving that Mirabelle is worthy of a recurring drive to the valley.

Ambiance: How Mirabelle has transformed this space from the dive bar that was in this location originally is so magical. Mirabelle Wine Bar is a tiny, intimate space, with one six-seat “lounge” area in the front, a long bar going down the length of the room, and a couple two-top high tops. Although it is small, it feels welcoming and inviting. Partly, as mentioned before, because of the people behind the bar, partly due to it’s sleek design. Or maybe it’s the classic cassettes playing familiar songs from Prince or The Rolling Stones on the cassette deck.

HH: I’ve always loved a good deal, but I don’t ever like losing quality. Mirabelle’s Happy Hour is the best because it features a great selection of wines that are already a part of the regular list, but for only $10. Plus, you can order discounted menu items like my favorite staple since Mirabelle’s opening: the Pan Con Tomate topped with Speck & Manchego. They also have $5 beer for those who wish to enjoy that instead, but I’m always going with wine!

Food: Would you believe that a three-course tasting menu that’s quality of food is equal to most of my favorite restaurants comes out of an Easy Bake oven? Yeah, that is a pretty far-fetched idea, but not too far away from the truth.  The “kitchen” at Mirabelle is literally a tiny corner that holds an electric convection oven and one induction burner. This concept works fine for bar bites like cheese & charcuterie.  But recently, I was completely blown away knowing this, and trying my first Sunday Prix Fix.

Every Sunday, Chef Shane Alvord puts together a tasting menu reflecting the season and availability of local ingredients. The end result? A perfect end to your weekend and a refreshing start to the next week. At $35 you get a three-course tasting menu with two options for each course that changes every Sunday.

My most recent dinner featured a starter of Burrata with fava beans, leaks, fried shallots, and chili garlic oil, a main of Red Sea Bream with mushrooms, preserved mustard greens, basil, and chicken jus, and a desert with Dark Chocolate Mousse with lavender meringue, and blackberry jam. They are reasonably priced, high quality dishes, and constantly changing which makes me want to try/collect them all.

Wine, people, location, ambiance, happy hour, and food! I’ve given away all of the secrets to Mirabelle Wine Bar’s success at being the best wine bar in the valley! I had to pour my heart out on this, since this crew does the same every night! Cheers! Go check it out for yourself!

Mirabelle Wine Bar

12518 Burbank Blvd.

Valley Village, CA 91607

The LA Times LAFoodBowl Collaboration Lab event!

I had the greatest time celebrating The Los Angeles Times LAFoodBowl Opening Night of the Night Market with the Collaboration Lab event featuring collaborations from L.A.’s top restaurants & international guests! 

Dishes included Olive Wagyu with bone broth & pickled cherry blossoms from @scratchbarla x @littleprince.la
Jazz Spicy Rice & Chengdu Chicken from @chengdutaste x @jitlada_la
Duo of Mussels from @kismetlosangeles x @ciyasofrasi
BBQ Pork Tacos with duck liver mousse & xo sauce from @otiumla x @esdras8a
Fried Chicken Sandwich from @fionabakeryla x @cicatrizcafe
Octopus Tostada from @baveldtla x @tacomaria
Spanish Octopus in escabeche with Uni cream & Asparagus conserva with black garlic vinaigrette from @bazaarbyjose x @otonola
Fried Bun with whipped almond & gochujang braised duck from @openaire_la x @arlogreyauatin
Teriyaki Burger with Spring Pickles from @shibumidtla x @spagobh

Studio City Food Guide

When my friend Susan Sheridan wanted to follow me around for the day with her camera, I immediately thought of the perfect idea: A Studio City Food Crawl! Not only could I eat & showcase some of my favorite spots, but it would give the excuse to make a Studio city guide for all of you.

Studio City holds a special place in my heart because it is where I grew up! It is the foundation of me becoming a foodie. Venturing on my own to lunch during free blocks of high school, and having the independence of a driver’s license, I explored places I wanted to try. It is also where I learned to eat quality food on a budget.

Now it’s become a place people are purposely venturing to. My crawl had me going back to my roots of where it all began, while seeing that not much has changed of what attracted me to The Valley in the first place. I always make fun of my parents for not leaving their 818 bubble, but with places like these, I don’t blame them.

And now… My Studio City Guide!

KIWAMI: Ventura Blvd. is DOMINATED with SUSHI spots, but Kiwami is my favorite! It’s part of the Katsu-Ya family, but feels like the Goldilocks of the bunch. Not too relaxed & rushed like the original, and not too clubby like the newer franchises. This one is just right! Order the “Kiwami Tray” (which is basically the best of the best from the menu!) Seared Albacore with Crispy Onion, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice, Salmon Sashimi with Chopped Avocado & Onion on top, & finally the Baked Crab Roll! Plus at $22 you can’t go wrong!

Other sushi spots to try: 

Iroha Sushi (Get the lunch box! Only $20! Clearly I have a thing for lunch specials…)

Teru Sushi: A Ventura Blvd. staple. Fish is fresh, and they have great Happy Hour deals!

Shiki Sushi: Have I mentioned how much I love lunch specials!?! They have a fun choice of at a great price.

Katsu-Ya: While I prefer Kiwami for ambiance & not feeling to rushed, this is where it ALL began! Specials written on a dry erase board, but it’s always all about the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna, Seared Albacore with Crispy Onion, & the Baked Crab Hand Roll (which you can get on the Kiwami Tray mentioned above.) But this place will forever hold my heart since I saw Justin Timberlake here back in 2004!

Henry’s Tacos There is nothing more Studio City than Henry’s Tacos. Although it has moved to a new stand, the popular valley taco of my childhood remains the same: A yellow paper wrapper containing a crunchy shell with crumbled taco meat, shredded lettuce, a slice of tomato, orange cheese, with spicy sauce on the side. 

Joan’s On Third Joan’s started its fame in West Hollywood, but fits perfectly in the Valley! (The closer location also makes my lunch choice easier without a drive over the hill.) It’s the perfect spot for my favorite Chinese Chicken salad, daily specials from the marketplace, entertainment meetings for coffee, or just a quick stop to buy a special gift to bring to your dinner party so you aren’t empty handed.

Other lunch spots to try for lunch/dinner:

Il Tramezzino: Chicken special! (Sun dried tomato, avocado, Provolone cheese and basil garlic sauce, but tip is to order it on flatbread) My order for the past 15 years. And although The Kardashians give this spot some buzz, it still remains an approachable lunch to grab a panini.

Artisan Cheese & Wine: Perfect for grabbing a cheese board for The Hollywood Bowl (or for an afternoon wine moment,) or meeting a friend for lunch. I love both the sandwiches & salads that incorporate fresh cheeses from the store.

Black Market: Amazing crafted cocktails, fun small plates to share, or a perfect Sunday Brunch. I always enjoy the tastes, sips, & company here!

Laurel Tavern: A great bar, too many first dates were had here, too many memories were made here, they’ve changed chefs so many times who knows what my favorite grilled artichoke tastes like, but yet I still love it!

Aroma: The spot that gives you the excuse to spend a couple of hours on Tujunga Blvd, while grabbing a quick lunch on the garden patio catching up with a friend.

Studio City Farmer’s Market: The perfect Sunday morning outing to grab fresh seasonal produce. Warning: You will ALWAYS run into someone you know.

You can’t end a meal (or a food guide) without desert!

McConnell’s: After obsessing over this ice cream spot for years, it finally found an additional home on Ventura Place. I love Banana & Salted Caramel… and Whiskey & Pecan Pralines… and Churros Con Leche.. let’s be honest I love ALL of them!

It can be argued that the other choice for ice cream in Studio City is Salt & Straw, but I am here to state that it is not! In my opinion, my other favorite ice cream is from THRIFTY (now sold at Rite Aid.) Favorite Flavor: Chocolate Malted Crunch!

So any favorites on this list? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments because I love sharing favorite places!

***Let it be noted I literally did a list ONLY for Studio City. I have so many favorite places in Sherman Oaks, Valley Village, Toluca Lake, all around the valley, but I made this specific to Studio City. But who knows, maybe those lists will come another time!

Thank you Susan Sheridan for the photos!

My friend Jonathan Gold

IMG_5481It’s hard to come up with the right words to explain what a man like Jonathan Gold meant to me, let alone what he meant to Los Angeles. I mean, we are talking about the greatest American Food critic, whose writing even won him a Pulitzer Prize. But I want to try to put some words together.

I feel like I got my “golden” ticket” invitation into the food community directly from Jonathan. His 101 Best Restaurants list started out as my road map to experience new restaurants, learn about different cuisines and dishes out of my comfort zone, and finally get to know and love the city I am native to: Los Angeles. It fueled my passion to do something creative, and eventually led me start Jessie Eats!

It’s amazing that social media can bring strangers together to create true friendships. @thejgold is probably the twitter handle I have tweeted the most (and I’ve tweeted @jtimberlake PLENTY of times!) But unlike Justin Timberlake, Jonathan always responded back! Whether it was a “like” or an #askjgold answer, I felt like my twitter conversation mattered and was appreciated.Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 5.49.33 PM

It wasn’t until I met Jonathan face to face years ago, that I truly felt acceptance into the food world. I introduced myself with my name & an explanation of who I was, and without hesitation Jonathan responded, “I know who you are.” And that was it! It’s silly how this simple recognition made me feel like my voice & opinion mattered.

“Food binds people together, it’s the great connector.” –Phil Rosenthal

But I felt welcomed by Jonathan to continue many conversations to come, which were always full of joy and excitement surrounding food! Over the years, Jonathan personally dared me to try new things… maybe for his own entertainment to see if I would actually do it, or to really encourage me to go out of my comfort zone. You better believe I ate the suggested Coco Tai Pla (fish kidneys) on my birthday at Jitlada so that I could be, as he put it,  “hardcore.” Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 8.33.56 PMHe has not been shy to review my “bad” choice of making deviled eggs for Thanksgiving celebration, he was quick to avoid topics like his thoughts on Vespertine before his review came out just as a teacher might do with a student, & he personally made sure to “hook me up” with passes to my favorite LA Times food event: The Taste.

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These little shared conversations and moments are why I love this food community so much. We SHARE! Chefs put their hearts and souls into creating and sharing special dishes with their diners. And we, in return, hopefully share them with our loved ones, while creating a memory of a shared experience. Although I never dined with Jonathan Gold, I felt like I have every week because his writing made the reader feel like you were sharing his meal and experience with him.

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I may not have perfect words to speak of my friend Jonathan, but I do have something that I think first led me towards Jonathan’s writing: a heart (although broken at the moment) and a huge passion for food!

Thank you Jonathan for being my friend, believing in me, and sharing your food experiences.