I love Mount Washington as rustic aerie. Sometimes, though, I miss my heart-of-Hollywood days when I could walk out the door and up the street for a meal and a spirited beverage.
Obviously, Mount Washington will never be a dining destination and that’s fine with me. I’m more than happy to have traded helicopter search lights for circling hawks.
However, with the exception of neighborhood staples such as and and relative newcomers like and The York gastropub, even Hill-adjacent Highland Park lags far behind neighboring Eagle Rock as a good food ‘hood.
Which is why us “NEastsiders” are especially excited about the imminent opening of Maximiliano, the new-kid-on-the-block Italian eatery from the Oinkster’s Andre Guerrero.
At Monday’s test dinner, Guerrero, dessert maven Jan Purdy, and Guerrero’s long-time team proved that good things come to those who wait…even if the wait will now last until Friday, October 14. As reported on Patch, Maximiliano delayed their opening a second time as Guerrero addressed minor Health Department issues and fine-tuned the kitchen.
As far as this happy eater is concerned, no fine-tuning necessary.
, I had the good fortune to sit next to Margarita and Lamgee Wong at the bar that angles out into the Maximiliano dining room. Not only were the Wongs gracious about me chatting them up during their dinner, Margarita offered me a slice of their Potato Pizza.
Roman in inspiration, the potato pizza is an especially delicious variation on a white pizza. The spud-laden slice was room temperature when I bit into it but the concentrated flavor of the potatoes mingled with roast garlic and the trio of cheeses--ricotta, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano--was as intense a jolt of taste as if it had been hot. And to quote Margarita, “The potatoes are so creamy!”
Turns out the pizza was cooked by Lamgee’s younger brother, Chef Sainegee Wong. As we continued to swap tastes of our respective meals--Lamgee and Margarita also favored the seafood and vegetable end of the menu--I learned that Sainegee apprenticed with Guerrero right out of Cordon Bleu cooking school and never left. At Maximiliano, he’s not only manning the pizza oven, he was also responsible for laying the cracked, red tile mosaic that echoes Maximiliano’s two-story scarlet walls carved with bunched strands of spaghetti. Sainegee laughingly said that he’s in the Guerrero kitchens so much, he’s often asked if he’s one of Andre’s sons.
Several of Chef Purdy’s desserts were unavailable Monday night including classics like cannoli and spumoni but we were able to sample the Olive Oil Ice Cream with salt and a caramel ribbon on top. The combo might sound odd but the olive oil grounded the sweetness of the ice cream and the salt offset the richness of the caramel. It’s the kind of dessert that made you forget your manners as a kid and lick the plate.
Come to think of it, that’s how I felt about every single dish I had at Maximiliano’s. Friday can’t come soon enough for me.
Beer Float Showdown
Some of Purdy’s desserts may have been missing Monday night but her ice cream will definitely make an appearance this Saturday, October 15, when she and Guerrero compete in Beer Float Showdown III alongside Jeremy Raub of Eagle Rock Brewery.
Eagle Rock Brewery is also hosting the Food GPS event, organized for a third year as part of Los Angeles Beer Week by Food GPS founder Josh Lurie, who was inspired by “a memorable birthday trip [to San Diego] in 2008. It was fun to experience shakes, floats and cakes that balanced sugary sweetness with hop bitterness, to name just two of the contributing flavors.” The event will benefit Share Our Strength, which works to eliminate childhood hunger.
This year, Lurie reached out to “five of my favorite local breweries, which all offer a range of beer styles. Then I matched them with five creative chefs who have demonstrated a similarly wide range.”
Lurie says that each Showdown ticket holder will receive “a 9-ounce beer float from each chef/brewery team--five total. Everybody rates each float based on three criteria: flavor, originality and presentation.”
As for a behind-the-scenes look at Beer Float prep, “Jeremy and Ting brought the brewery to us this last week while we prepared to open Maximiliano,” Purdy said via e-mail. Eagle Rock Brewery co-owner Ting Su says that she had a couple of beers in mind but that she and Raub “brought over five beers, a bottle of each, and we collaborated and brainstormed together. Jan and Andre, you can present them with just about anything. Some of the beers they were suggesting--I wouldn’t have expected. It stimulated my curiosity.”
“We threw around a ‘Beer-a-misu’ idea with a chocolate espresso ice cream to play up the opening of Maximiliano,” continued Purdy. “But, in the end, [we] shifted to a Vanilla Bean Solidarity which Eagle Rock Brewery does as a riff on the regular brew.”
“The rest will have to wait for next Saturday,” Purdy continued, “but [here’s a] hint: Andre's on garnish and I unabashedly admit I make some killer ice creams! Let's just say ‘Big and bold and kinda old school’.”
Maximiliano will open Friday, October 14th from 5:00 p.m. to midnight.
Beer Float Showdown 3 will be held Saturday, October 15th from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Eagle Rock Brewery.
Lurie advises that “tickets are currently available online and will be available at the door, as long as the event doesn't reach capacity. There are two ways to purchase tickets in advance to L.A. Beer Float Showdown 3 -- either through general admission ($35), or via the VIP route ($45).”
***In addition to the Eagle Rock Brewery/Maximiliano team, Beer Float Showdown 3 will include:
Chef Ilan Hall of the Gorbals with Tustin Brewery brewmaster Smog City Brewing Co. owner Jonathan Porter
Chef CJ Jacobson of the Yard with Firestone Walker representative Jace Milstead
Chef Laurent Quenioux of Vertical Wine Bistro and LQ@SK with Beachwood BBQ & Brewing brewmaster Julian Shrago and co-owner Gabe Gordon
Chef Thi Tran and Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen with Ladyface Ale Companie brewmaster Dave Griffiths and owner Cyrena Nouzille.