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S Irene Virbila

April 7, 2005 | S. Irene Virbila
Question: How do you decide which restaurants to review? * Virbila: We cover such a wide area and such a broad spectrum of types of restaurants that it's sometimes very tough to decide. Our first order of business is to cover significant new restaurant openings, because that's news. As soon as a new restaurant opens, I'll write a first impression of it as a Critic's Notebook in Calendar Weekend. Full reviews run in the Wednesday Food section.
December 22, 2012 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
Once I lived in a place where winter temperatures regularly dipped below freezing, and my best friend was my goose down comforter. My downstairs neighbor was a Renaissance English scholar, and every year he did the whole Dickens Christmas feast complete with goose. I had my own Christmas celebration, but he'd give me the goose fat and any of the leftovers, which I used in my New Year's Day cassoulet, prepared from Julia Child's lengthy recipe. It wasn't until I moved to sunny Southern California that I made a roast goose myself for the first time.
December 6, 1993
S. Irene Virbila has been named The Times' restaurant critic. Virbila has written extensively about food, wine and restaurants and was a contributing editor and columnist at San Francisco Focus magazine. She was also a regular contributor to the Wine Spectator and other publications. In addition, she has written or co-written several books, including "Cook's Marketplace, San Francisco."
December 15, 2012 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic
You can use your iPhone or iPad to watch movies, listen to music, text and surf the Internet. But special, surprisingly inexpensive apps make them nifty environments for learning or upgrading cooking skills. I've bought or borrowed quite a few culinary apps - some terrific, some boring, some duds. The best are full-on apps, with hours of video included. Others are more like enhanced books, but even those include tricks such as dumping all the ingredients for a recipe into a shopping basket with the click of a button.
Southern California is restaurant heaven. Where else can you find a strip-mall joint serving 28 kinds of chili, a tap-dancing sushi bar and an elegant cafe in a seedy parking lot? From inspired chefs and favorite dishes to the guy who makes the best cappuccino in town, here are 75 sublime reasons to dine out. 1. J.Z.Y. Cafe J.Z.Y. Cafe, deep in a San Gabriel mini-mall, serves tea pastries that are considerably more exotic than traditional Cantonese dim sum.
In Italian, affogato means "drowned." Nothing short of a drenching in Italy's Trevi Fountain cools you down the way vanilla gelato with a cup of hot espresso tipped over it can. Get it at Alto Palato in Los Angeles, where former Torino barista Gino Rindone makes the espresso and gelato. Don't go there just for an affogato. Roman-style pizzas --potato and onion, broccoli rabe and mozzarella--are a must. Alto Palato, 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 657-9271. Affogato, $6.
December 4, 2012 | By Russ Parsons
It's an axiom of food writing that the only restaurant critics chefs like are the ones who've just retired. Apparently, that's not quite true. In fact, The Times has two exceptions on its staff. Jonathan Gold and S. Irene Virbila are both in the Top 10 of the nation's restaurant critics, according to a poll of chefs and restaurateurs conducted by the Daily Meal website . In fact, Gold is No. 1 over all, earning the site's only three-star ranking. Virbila is No. 10, with 2½ stars.
January 19, 2012 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic
When I spent some months in Venice, Italy, years ago, my friend Paolo would show up at dinner parties with prosciutto. I'm not talking about a paper packet of sliced ham but a whole prosciutto di San Daniele, the famous ham from Friuli, cured with the foot on. The host would hand him a glass of Prosecco, he'd pull his well-traveled prosciutto out of the bag and proceed to carve off slices as his contribution to the cicchetti (antipasti) spread. Brilliant. And after, it would go home with him to be trotted out for the next dinner party.
January 5, 2012 | By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic
The best meals of the year aren't necessarily about foie gras and truffles, or indulgent tasting menus, or even the technically best cooking of 2011. They're those dinners that surprised and delighted, that wove food and wine and friendship together in a meal that stands crisp and clear in memory. Some of them are unrepeatable, like the subtle Indian feast a friend cooked or the dinner for more than 100 outside at one long table in front of a historic chateau in France. Or the wild crayfish that a Rioja producer pulled out of a pond next to his winery and cooked up for lunch.
December 30, 2010 | By Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times
Well, that was interesting. A couple of days before Christmas, one of the owners of the new Beverly Hills restaurant Red Medicine created a firestorm by confronting Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila while she was waiting for a table, snapping her picture, kicking her and her party out of the restaurant and then posting the picture on the Internet for all to see. By the next morning, more than 15 years of working to remain anonymous were...
December 23, 2010 | By Christopher Reynolds and Rene Lynch, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila ducked into Red Medicine, a new Beverly Hills restaurant, for some modern Vietnamese food the other night, but got nothing to eat. Instead, she was outed and ousted, her party turned away, her picture snapped and critic's anonymity shredded by the restaurateur himself. "I always knew at some point a blogger or somebody would take a secret photo. But I never expected that a restaurateur would stick a camera in my face," Virbila said Wednesday.
December 1, 2010 | S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times
When I first got my iPhone, I was thrilled to discover Convertbot, which made it fun and easy to convert ingredient quantities or temperatures from my British cookbooks. That app, it turned out, was just a taste of the onslaught of food and wine apps to come - so many, you'd have to be a full-time app tester to try them all out. (Unfortunately, I have another job.) But I do try a lot. Here are apps for the iPhone that I've found most useful. Several are also available on the Android platform.
January 6, 2010 | By S. Irene Virbila, Restaurant Critic
To say that I eat out a lot would be something of an understatement. The question I'm always asked, of course, is what is my favorite restaurant? That's understandable, but it's also basically unanswerable. Because the answer depends on whether I'm in the mood for something simple or something sublime, pasta or sushi, a quick bite or a piece of restaurant theater. And though I rank restaurants according to a star system, that doesn't necessarily predict where I'll want to eat on any given night.
December 2, 2009 | By S. Irene Virbila
When it comes to my kitchen, I'm not strictly practical. If I were, I'd have stainless steel cupboards instead of painted wood glazed with beeswax, or a concrete floor instead of wood. And I certainly wouldn't have a copper sink that threatens to turn furry and green every other day. The way things look matters to me. And that instinct for the beautiful follows me into the kitchen too. Before I begin to cook, I lay out all my ingredients in bowls and baskets. I'll pull out the shallots and garlic I keep in glazed ocher bowls that I carried back from Provence, or the bouquet of red peppers and Sicilian dried oregano that are stored in a basket a friend brought me from South Africa.
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