YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Orchestrating a Picnic of Note : Before heading to the next Hollywood Bowl concert, fill your basket with goodies found near your shuttle stop.

June 23, 1995|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Max Jacobson writes regularly about food and restaurants for The Times

The ritual of picnicking on the hilly grounds of the Hollywood Bowl before a summery evening concert is one of life's great pleasures. On our side of the hill, concert-goers have the added option of taking special buses directly to the bowl from strategically placed Valley locations. That is a stroke of luck for people like me, who prefer the driving left to someone else.

It's easy to arrange a picnic under those conditions as well. The four bus locations listed below are adjacent to places that offer surprises for the picnic basket, from ethnic haunts to elegant restaurants, all preparing fine foods perfectly suited to alfresco dining. Take the wicker basket down from the attic and bring a hearty appetite. Why limit a bowl picnic to homemade ham sandwiches and wedges of baked Brie?

Here are four picnic ideas, each convenient to one of four bus locations for bowl-bound passengers. All are destined to make people on the next blanket wonder why they didn't think of the same thing.

Near bus location at 10801 Ventura Blvd.

Few cuisines are as well set-up for outdoor eating as those of the Middle East. Life in dry, warm climates is particularly picnic-friendly, and so are the healthful, tasty dishes cooked up by Israeli-born Judah Amir, chef-owner of Amir's Falafel.

The falafel sandwich is something of a religion in Israel, a hot pita bread stuffed with five or six deep-fried golden orbs of mashed garbanzos, parsley and spices. Amir's makes the Valley's best falafel, but his hot and cold salads, grilled meats and tasty finger foods are ideal for creating a dream summer picnic. What's more, Amir will pack your foods in spill-proof, snap-top plastic containers or compartmentalized foil trays that keep individual dishes separate.

Have Amir grill about two pitas per person. At 25 cents a pita, it won't exhaust anyone's budget, and it will sate the average person. Falafel balls are $2.50 a dozen, and you'll need to order extra lettuce, tomato and onion, plus a small container of the sesame-based sauce called tahineh, to assemble an authentic falafel yourself.

The combo salad plate, for $6.99, is loaded. It's a symphony of flavors and colors itself: the popular parsley and bulgur wheat salad called tabbouleh, two kinds of eggplant salad, a delicious sweet spicy salad of chunked carrot, Turkish salad (chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onions,) the garbanzo bean dip called hummus, potato salad, coleslaw and several falafel balls. For what it's worth, Amir's creamy hummus rivals those I've tasted anywhere. Meat-eaters can cut their teeth on delicious lamb and chicken kebabs or on shawarma, a spit-roasted combination of heavily spiced lamb and turkey, thin-sliced from a vertical broiler.

Amir's Falafel, 11711 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 509-8641. Open daily, 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Picnic for four, $16 to $25.

Near bus location at Sunkist, 14130 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks.

Pinot Bistro--and executive chef Octavio Becerra--have created boxed meals that will make you the envy of anyone close enough to see or smell what is inside. The attractive black-and-white designer boxes are packed with everything you'll need for an informal picnic: napkins, utensils and highbrow essentials such as plastic wine glasses. They'll even throw in a corkscrew, on request.

There are three menus to choose from--the Armstrong, $21, the Holiday, $24, and the Davis, $26.50. Each one has three courses intended to serve one, although the average person will find portions more than generous.

I've sampled two of the menus, and I pronounce both wonderful for picnicking. The Armstrong menu begins with "Feta-terranean" salad, Becerra's imaginative take on a Greek salad. In addition to crumbled feta cheese, red onion, Roma tomatoes, Kalamata olives and sliced cucumber, usual components of the Greek salad, the chef has thrown in crispy pita chips and hearts of romaine. Mmmmm. The filling main course is garlic roasted chicken and a flavorful fingerling potato salad coated with whole-grain mustard. For dessert, there is a summer apricot and toasted almond strudel with vanilla bean sauce.

The Holiday menu is another winner. As a first course, the chef has created one of the most appealing Nicoise salads this side of the Azure Coast. Heady hunks of peppered ahi tuna are tumbled in with the greens, along with cooked egg, ripe tomato, cured anchovy and a rustic toast smeared with the olive pate called tapenade. The follow-up is a sandwich of peppered roast beef with horseradish mayonnaise on a crunchy baguette, a salad of cherry tomatoes and a dessert of fresh mixed berries. If these baskets don't turn a few heads, Maestro John Mauceri is probably in for a long evening.

Pinot, 12969 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 990-0500. Open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Picnic for two, $42 to $53. Picnic boxes available starting July 1. A few hours advance notice is requested.

Near bus location at 3700 Barham Blvd., Burbank.

Los Angeles Times Articles