Ingredients: Good Results for Small Bites in Sparr Heights [CLOSED]

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Longtime Sparr Heights chef Michael Ruiz now focuses on Ingredients.

Michael Ruiz, former chef-owner of Bistro Verdu, resurfaced in the north Glendale neighborhood of Sparr Heights in December 2007 with his boutique gourmet shop: Ingredients. Ruiz explained the name, saying, “That’s where you start. You get good ingredients, you get good results.” After sampling seven of his “small bites,” it’s clear that Ruiz is indeed getting good results.

The space features an olive green awning and unfinished wood picnic tables, both inside and out. Ruiz calls the design “country European.” The shelves, counters and glass-fronted refrigerators are stocked with gourmet ingredients. He attracts affluent locals and JPL employees, plus Silver Lakers and Echo Parkers who shoot up the 2 freeway for DIY tasting menus.

Ruiz’s blackboard menu changes with the seasons and features at least 20 Mediterranean small bites daily, which mostly appear on butcher-paper lined cutting boards. To fuel specials, Ruiz scours three different farmers markets: La Cañada, Pasadena and Hollywood.

Deviled Eggs Los Angeles

Deviled eggs ($3) were incredible, mixed with bacon bits, dusted with sea salt and smoked paprika, and topped with razor-thin radish shavings. Ruiz figured out a clever way to hold the eggs in place: more deviled egg yolk. To complete the dish, he drizzled around the eggs with house-made basil oil.

Small Bites Los Angeles

Ruiz paired our goat cheese terrine ($4) with Verdu beet stix ($6), a dish that dates to Bistro Verdu. The goat cheese terrine featured alternating layers of sweet red pepper. Twin slabs cradled a pile of bursting heirloom tomatoes. Pesto bracketed the vibrant dish.

Verdu beet stix ($6) also featured alternating layers of vegetable and goat cheese, in this case roasted golden beets and peppered goat’s cheese. Vertical towers were drizzled with crumbled pistachios and balsamic-honey. Delicious.

Pork Los Angeles

Pork shoulder ($8) is slow braised with Cara Cara oranges (aka navel oranges). Ruiz covers the pig meat with a glass dome and introduces swirling applewood smoke.

Pork Los Angeles

Ruiz lifted the lid to reveal luscious shredded pork, roasted green pepper and parsley oil garnishes.

Duck Los Angeles

Duck confit ($8) – shredded duck meat poached in duck fat – was tossed with shavings of sweet pear, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, Marcona almonds and quince vinaigrette. Good, but not compared with Ruiz’s pork shoulder.

Ham Los Angeles

Reserva Serrano ham ($6) came on spicy tomato-slathered bread with shaved Leyenda, which Ruiz described as a “Spanish sheep’s milk cheese similar to Manchego, soaked in brandy, cured in pork fat and herbs for 14 days, another way we feature pork products.”

A crumbly Baked Ricotta ($4) slab arrived studded with pistachios and dried figs, topped with thin-shaved speck, green beans and accented with 50-year sherry vinegar drizzles.

Strawberry Shortcake Los Angeles

Special strawberry gingerbread shortcake ($5) featured layers of moist, slightly spicy bread, fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Spices Los Angeles

The gourmet market sells Fra’Mani salumi, Marcona almonds and spices by the ounce, including ground ginger, smoked paprika, cumin seed, turmeric and ground coriander. Ruiz also sells house-made walnut mustard, olives marinated in orange oil and cumin, and pimenton butter.

To drink, Ruiz encourages people to bring their own wine or stop by neighboring Rosso, Jeff Zimmitti’s boutique wine shop that specializes in varietals from France, Italy and Spain.

Every Thursday night, Ruiz presents a different tasting menu, pairable with Zimmitti’s wines. Ruiz doesn’t have a “conventional kitchen,” so he likes to challenge himself by cooking “good quality ingredients with simple preparations” relying on crock pots, sous vide and slow roasting. So far, he’s cooked five-course halibut, Moroccan and “swine-a-licious” pork tasting menus, to name three, and plans to cook from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook in the coming weeks.

This summer, Ruiz plans to add a tasting room and begin growing ingredients in a back garden. He and Zimmitti have also discussed a wood-burning pizzeria. While his future plans are exciting, Ruiz has already managed to carve out a delicious niche for himself in Northeast Los Angeles.

Update: On May 26, Chef Ruiz e-mailed newsletter subscribers to let us know that he was closing Ingredients. Here’s part of his message: “We developed the concept of ingredients as an experiment to create a different take on what a restaurant/store could be. Sometimes these ‘outside the box’ concepts, (and regular restaurants as well), don’t hit the mark and are unable to capture the minimum amount of customers to make a financially viable business.” Ruiz is currently Executive Chef for Steven Arroyo’s three Cobras & Matadors restaurants.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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