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S. Irene Virbila for The Times

Many hands make wontons, pearly meatballs and an enjoyable day

Across the Table: Making Sichuan wontons and pearly meatballs is a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends. The work is convivial, and the outcome is delicious.

Wine review: 2011 Caprili Rosso di Montalcino

Wine of the Week: 2011 Caprili Rosso di Montalcino

L.A. area restaurants that serve great rotisserie and fried chicken

Critic's Choice: Have a hankering for fried chicken or rotisserie chicken? Try République, Plan Check and Bouchon Beverly Hills.

Bollito misto, Italy's winter comfort dish, suits warm L.A. just fine

Across the Table:

Wine review: 2012 Stolpman Vineyards 'La Cuadrilla' red wine

Wine of the Week: 2012 Stolpman Vineyards 'La Cuadrilla' red wine has a beautiful balance. It's a terrific everyday wine.

Where you have to go whole hog, try these three places in the L.A. area

Critic's Choice: Sometimes a chop or a rasher just won't sate that pork craving. That's when these two restaurants and a takeout spot become the places for a pig-out.

The hunt's on: Three restaurants deep into game this season

Critic's Choice: Josie Restaurant, Patina at Disney Hall and Saddle Peak Lodge are there to indulge your hankering for elk, quail and other game.

Wine of the Week: 2012 Doniene Bizkaiko Txakolina

Wine of the Week: The 2012 Doniene Bizkaiko Txakolina is crisp and aromatic and pairs well with crudo, grilled fish and seafood.

Let the late Sunday lunch prevail

Across the Table: With less stress for all and easygoing meals stretching into the evening, is it time to ditch the dinner party?

Wine review: 2011 David Sterza Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso

Wine of the Week: The 2011 Valpolicella Classico Ripasso from David Sterza winery in Fumane, Italy, is wonderful everyday wine for less than $20.

Pasta to please the pickiest palates

Critic's Choice: Whether you fall in the freshly made camp or the dried, here are some L.A. restaurants doing right by their pastas: the Factory Kitchen, Bucato and Angelini Osteria.

Wine review: 2012 McKinlay Pinot Noir

Wine review: 2012 McKinlay Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon, silky and balanced.

Lunch at Bodegas Muga in Spain, with wine pairings by Juan Muga

Across the Table: At Bodegas Muga in Spain's Ebro river valley, Juan Muga's pairings include 2012 Muga Blanco with white asparagus, 2005 Prado Enea 'Gran Reserva' with baby lamb chops.

Three cozy restaurants for when it's dinner for two

Critic's Choice: For a cozy dinner for two, three Los Angeles restaurants stand out on the list: Acabar, Barbrix and Orsa & Winston.

Across the Table: Grower Champagnes worth seeking out

Across the Table: With many of the top names in Champagne produced by conglomerates, there's a rising market for grower Champagnes, which offer a different experience and mostly lower prices. They're worth seeking out.

Dinner party menu: Start with the wine

You've been saving bottles of wine for a special occasion. Build a menu around them and invite friends for a quiet dinner.

Wine review: 2010 Venus la Universal 'Dido' Montsant tinto

Wine of the Week 2010 Venus la Universal Montsant tinto 'Dido'

Three L.A. restaurants that are good brunch bets

Critic's Choice: Three Los Angeles restaurants, Bucato, Girasol and Farmshop, are good bets for brunch, which can be a lifesaver when you have houseguests.

For dining out, the pleasure of a singular choice beats the 'foodie pass'

Across the Table: The trend toward flying plates as diners engage in the 'foodie pass' at restaurants takes away the pleasure of ordering your own choice and not having to share.

Three restaurants in the L.A. area take smoke to seductive heights

Critic's Choice: Smoke is a versatile tool for the savvy chef. Three Los Angeles area restaurants that use it well: Hinoki & the Bird, Barney Greengrass and Horse Thief BBQ.

California vintners branch out to Italian grapes

Across the Table: Although last century's fashion favored French wines, California's similar climate to Italy has some vineyard owners considering a change of grape.

Pancakes, on a grand or silver-dollar scale, in L.A.

Critic's Choice: Three spots in L.A. for terrific pancakes: Cooks County, Valerie and Axe

Wine shops can be your best buyer guides

Across the Table: You don't have to be a wine know-it-all if you have a reliable wine shop nearby to help you make an informed choice.

Raise a glass to great bar food at three L.A. area restaurants

Critic's Choice: Bar food shines at three L.A. area restaurants: Spago, Lucques and Bar Bouchon

A French-style cider from Bonny Doon

Across the Table: Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm bites into the cider trend, with a French twist. His Querry cider is made with pears, apples and quince.

Corn dishes brighten menus at Tar & Roses, Gjelina and Cliff's Edge

Critic's Choice: For those who love fresh, sweet corn, creative dishes at Tar & Roses, Gjelina and Cliff's Edge let you savor a summer flavor.

Bottarga, a briny Mediterranean delicacy worth smuggling

Briny

Fresh tomatoes bring out the juicy best at Southern California restaurants

Critic's Choice: Southern California restaurants indulge the fresh tomato mania. Three places to try are Il Grano, Marche Moderne and Lucques.

A crisp Txakoli serves as a perfect summer wine

Across the Table: A crisp Txakoli from Basque country serves as a perfect summer wine.

Creating the perfect charcuterie or salumi plate at home

Charcuterie plates: From selection to display, expert advice on creating the perfect plate of handcrafted salami, smoked ham and more. Sample and enjoy.

Across the Table: Dom Pérignon's Richard Geoffroy seeks new pairings for Champagne

Dom Perignon's Richard Geoffroy expands the flavors that Champagne loves

How to make sense of the wine list

Tips for making sense of a wine list: Cut through the clutter and choose a great wine.

Across the Table: In France, a cherry tree, clafoutis and an intuitive baker

In France, a cherry tree, clafoutis and a blind baker

Recipes that speak plainly

Recipes that speak plainly can be a joy. Julia Child can take you step by step by step, but there's something freeing about a few sentences that assume the skill of a seasoned cook.

Across the Table: The accidental sommelier student in Paris

Across the Table: The accidental sommelier student in Paris

Across the Table: Kosher wine worth passing around

Covenant Wines makes kosher wines that have gotten strong reviews from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator. How did it come about? Jeff Morgan and Leslie Rudd of Rudd Vineyards put their know-how and hopes to the test.

Shopping like a Parisian in L.A.

Buying groceries at specialty shops like the French isn't supermarket-simple, but the quality of food and the sheer joy of discovery have their own rewards.

Across the Table: A year to wrap, fold, crimp and pursue other culinary skills

Resolutions center on learning new culinary skills, with an eye on well-wrapped wontons, artful

Upgrade your cooking skills? There's an app for that.

From Evan Kleiman pie tips to Mario Batali's Italian recipes to a master cocktail course from two New York mixologists, six apps from The Times' S. Irene Virbila.

Across the Table: The master of schnapps, and gin too

Hans Reisetbauer is known for intense, flavorful schnapps. He says it all starts with one perfect ingredient. Now he's becoming known for his Blue Gin too.

Across the Table: Cooks' mad dash

Los Angeles Times restaurant critics S. Irene Virbila and her husband find that in one calendar week they'd agreed to host six dinner parties. Here's how they got through the marathon week.

Chefs roam the globe for fun and research

When chefs have the chance to get away, they savor the experience – and learn from it.

Review: BierBeisl, a modern Austrian for Southern California

BierBeisl, a modern Austrian restaurant in Beverly Hills, richly fills a vacancy for the cuisine in Los Angeles.

The Review: Water Grill gets back to the seafood basics

Downtown L.A. restaurant reopened in January after a $1.5 million redo with a new look, menu and chef. Highlights include the raw bar, fish 'n' chips, Dungeness crab.

Restaurant review: Short Order

The new restaurant Short Order has it all: a burger joint with frills, including a full bar, fresh-baked cookies, a retro soundtrack and an outdoor terrace.

The Review: A1 Cucina Italiana in Beverly Hills

A1 Cucina Italiana in Beverly Hills has assembled some of the team that once made Alto Palato special, including Danilo Terribili and Fredy Escobar. In the old Il Buco space, the Italian restaurant has a revamped menu of solid Italian food in an intimate setting with a contemporary, smart look.

The Review: Freddy Smalls

Freddy Smalls in L.A. is a noisy, busy gastropub that can win you over with its energy.

Restaurant review: Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air

Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air gives the hotel a serious restaurant and the chef an ideal California spot: restaurant review.

The Review: Papilles

Polished French cooking in a relaxed setting with reasonable prices sets Papilles apart, says Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic S. Irene Virbila.

The Review: Ink, as seen on TV

Restaurant review: Ink, a new restaurant by 'Top Chef' champion Michael Voltaggio, features cutting-edge cuisine that is exciting and very much the chef's unique vision.

The Review: Bäco Mercat makes it easy to get carried away

At Bäco Mercat in downtown Los Angeles, Josef Centeno's ever-changing menu makes it easy to get carried away: restaurant review.

The Review: Son of a Gun on 3rd Street

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal open Son of a Gun, a friendly, inexpensive seafood joint on 3rd Street.

The Review: Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach

With the success of Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich try for a repeat in Newport Beach. The food succeeds, but the atmosphere, well...

Restaurant review: Pizzeria il Fico

Pizzeria il Fico: Nicola Mastronardi of Vincenti in Brentwood branches out with a location near the Beverly Center in L.A. Its ambitous menu includes pizza, antipasti and pasta dishes with a southern Italian accent.

Restaurant review: The Strand House in Manhattan Beach

The Strand House in Manhattan Beach aspires to inject Hollywood hip into the laid-back beach culture of the South Bay.

The Review: The Spice Table in Little Tokyo

The new Spice Table in Little Tokyo weaves the vivid flavors of Vietnamese and Singaporean cuisine into a delightful menu that gets just about everything right.

The Review: L'Epicerie Market in Culver City

Thierry Perez's L'Epicerie Market in Culver City started uncertain of itself but has gotten reinforcements of late with the addition of Sébastien Archambault and his flavorful, casual southwest French cooking.

The Review: Picca

Picca, chef Ricardo Zarate's latest, boasts innovative, robust Peruvian food and a lively atmosphere to match.

Restaurant review: Ombra Ristorante in Studio City

Chef-owner Michael J. Young's Ombra goes beyond being just another neighborhood Italian restaurant with authentic dishes, including excellent pastas, and a personable atmosphere.

The Review: Hungry Cat Santa Monica Canyon

The latest version of Hungry Cat, in Santa Monica Canyon, has excellent seafood in a simply designed space and ocean views.

The Review: Sotto

Steve Samson and Zach Pollack's southern Italian restaurant Sotto could break the mold for L.A. Italian cuisine. It's strong in pizza and regional meat dishes, but the pasta and dessert offerings need some work.

The Review: Playa

Restaurant review: John Sedlar is pushing the envelope again, this time at Playa, with a menu that focuses on inventive bites from the urban Latin landscape and artful presentation.

The Review: Lukshon

Lukshon in Culver City from Father's Office chef-owner Sang Yoon does some things right (short ribs) but needs to improve on others (rice, noodles).

The Review: Ray's and Stark Bar at LACMA

Museums aren't generally known for harboring distinguished restaurants. And the original one at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was never much more than adequate. But Ray's and Stark Bar have more ambition and are actually pulling it off.

The Review: London's St. John Hotel with chef Fergus Henderson and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

London restaurant reviews: St. John Hotel is a carnivore's haven, with some succulent twists. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal offers playful reinterpretations of English dishes savored through the centuries. Together, they make London the world's most exciting place to eat.

The Review: Hostaria del Piccolo in Santa Monica

Hostaria del Piccolo in Santa Monica: The décor evokes a contemporary Italian restaurant in the mountains. The food passes the exacting standards of an Italian native.

The Review: Craig's

Craig Susser ensures that visitors famous and otherwise feel comfortable at the old-school-style party he's throwing at his new restaurant. But where's the attention to the food?

Public Kitchen & Bar in Hollywood Roosevelt

Tim Goodell's Public Kitchen & Bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt offers laid-back, classic American fare with bright flavors in an unpretentious setting with a bit of Hollywood glamour.

The Review: Aburiya Toranoko in Little Tokyo

Aburiya Toranoko in Little Tokyo, from Michael Cardenas and Hisaharu Kawabe, does

The Review: Fraîche in Culver City

Fraîche chef Ben Bailly hasn't yet made the menu at this Culver City restaurant his own.

The Review: Julienne in Santa Barbara

Julienne in Santa Barbara is a small, progressive American bistro with house-made charcuterie and pasta and other delicious dishes. The service is skillful too.

The Review: The Royce

Restaurant review: At the Royce at the Langham hotel in Pasadena, Patina alum David Féau turns out delicious food in a new dining room with a bright look.

The Review: Ecco in Costa Mesa

There's an authentic vibe to Ecco in Costa Mesa, which serves up such well-executed Italian cuisine as Neapolitan pizzas in a small and friendly space.

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