Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sweet Lady Jane

Sandi and I went to see the movie, Dough at the Laemmle theater in  Sta. Monica. After the movie, we decided to visit my brother in his new office in Santa Monica. He sent me a text of his address with a notation that it was across Sweet Lady Jane, the upscale cafe and bakery. I have had some of their desserts long time ago but couldn't remember what I had or what was good.

We found  Gary's office. We parked, said hello and announced we wanted to stop by the bakery. He was so kind as to chaperone both of us as if we were not capable of crossing the streets of Sta. Monica. I strongly suspected he had an ulterior motive.

Seeing all the beautiful cakes and pastries got me all excited. I knew I had to be careful on choosing which ones to buy and sample. I saw a whole (small) Lemon Cake with lemon curd. I was ready to buy it till I found out it was $40.  That would have been an expensive experiment. I opted for a slice of the White Chocolate Raspberry cake (large) for $7.95 and the 4" Lemon Meringue Tart, also $7.95. Just before paying for both slices, I saw the Sea Salt Brownies and the Sea Salt Caramel Brownies. I had to try those as well. Gary's ulterior motive was the English Trifle. We didn't even make it out of the bakery when he started to devour it. I was too busy trying to figure out if I needed to get something else. The something else I forgot was the Tarte Tatin.


Sandi and I had to tackle the 405 Fwy. at rush hour. It took us almost 2 hours to get to our area. Neither of us were in no mood to cook. The funny thing was I thought of the Mashed Potato Bowl from Kentucky Fried Chicken. A minute later, Sandi asked me what I thought about getting something to eat at Kentucky Chicken. Yikes!!!  We're beginning to think like a married couple! We found one near her house; ordered 2 of the bowls to go and headed on home.  We enjoyed the our bowls while we looked forward to dessert.

We started sampling the White Chocolate Raspberry. We both agreed it was good but not good enough. If you want a light cake with great flavor and not too sweet, I would highly recommend the Coffee Crunch Cake from Red Ribbon in Carson. The brownies were way too sweet. If it had the salted caramel that Ana used to make from L'Amande Bakery ( a hint of a burnt taste), it would be amazing. The Lemon Meringue was excellent. It had the right amount of tartness with a crust that had the right amount of sweetness. The meringue was just heavenly.


The saying, "You can't judge a book by it's cover" is so true. In this case, you can't judge a cake by it's looks all the time. There may be times when it will taste as good as it looks but many times, it will not taste as good as it looks. I would much rather have a lopsided chocolate cake that is unbeatable in taste  (You know who you are) any day!

Sweet Lady Jane has several locations in Los Angeles and now in Corona Del Mar.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Petrossian

A friend and I ended up at Petrossian for an early dinner yesterday. They are open from Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. On weekends, they open at 10:00 a.m. and offer a brunch. I have previously blogged about this restaurant. There are just too many good things to try. Here's my last blog: http://solittlethyme.blogspot.com/2011/12/champagne-wishes-and-caviar-dreams.html


This time, instead of the lovely Egg Royale, I wanted to try something different. We had a couple of appetizers. The Oursinade was soft scrambled egg with Santa Barbara sea urchin, salmon roe with chives. The combination of the very soft scrambled eggs and the sweetness and buttery uni was undeniably delicious. The other appetizer was the Caviar Flatbread; unlike the Buckwheat Blinis, this was already made. There was no need to fill individual blinis and balance the fillings. The flatbread had the creme fraiche, chives, red onion, capers and chopped egg. It was easy consumption and wonderful with our champagne.


For our entree, my friend ordered the Artic Char, a  coldwater fish related to the salmon. This was served with asparagus, watercress, caviar and smoked sturgeon sauce. The skin was nice and crisp. For fish lovers, this was excellent. I could not pass on the Caviar Pasta; nice aldente pasta with creme fraiche, fleur de caviar and chives. I could eat this everyday as a primi. It was wonderful.


Andy, our server was most attentive, always there to refill our glasses with champagne. She later came to ask us if we would be interested in looking at the dessert menu. Before she could finish her sentence, I said: "Yes, we will be ordering some dessert". My friend had the Tarte aux Pommes; apple tart with vanilla ice cream. I had the Poached Pear Belle Helene with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. It usually comes with toasted almonds but I told them to hold the almonds. I ate the whole thing!


Petrossian is located at 321 N. Robertson Blvd. in West Hollywood. They have street parking, no valet but the valet of the restaurant across the street will work for Petrossian customers.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Great Maple

Great Maple is located at the newly renovated Del Amo Mall in Torrance, California. Their other locations are in Newport Beach and San Diego. My long time friend and hairdresser, Jody took me and Sandi for lunch yesterday. It's a nice size bright and airy place with some outdoor seating.


As usual we all wanted to try too many items on the menu. The only wise solution was to split everything 3 ways. Jody has had the Barley Salad and thought it would be good to share one of those. It was to be my vitamins and minerals for the day. The special of the day was Smoked Pork Belly flatbread; peanut butter and sweet soy glaze, red onion, goat cheese and cilantro. This took center stage. It was unbelievably *#*#*#*#(fill in the blank) delicious! The other item we ordered was their famous Burger. We had it with Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions, tomato, aioli on their freshly baked bun. You had a choice of sides to go with the burger; mixed greens (who needs more greens), pommes frites or for an extra $1.95, Parmesan Truffle Fries. This was a no-brainer....had to be the truffle fries. The burger was very good. We did not want to add bacon or any more items that would have taken the taste away from the good old pure hamburger meat. The fries were almost fantastic. I say almost because some to them were overdone. When thin ones are overcooked, you lose the flavor of the potato; almost like eating "pik-nik"shoestring potatoes. The fatter potatoes were wonderful!


Dessert was almost a problem. We all like Rhubarb Pie which they had, but they also had Beignets. When we heard that they were served with Lemon Curd, we were torn between the two. Since we all like lemon curd, we finally decided to order that. There were 9 in one order. Perfect.....3 for each of us little piggies. They were of course unlike Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans but it was not bad at all. Sandi could only eat 2 of her share and Jody could not eat another one, so guess what....I had to sacrifice and eat the extra one. I also had to ask for more lemon curd as one tiny cup was not enough for 9 of those little wonders. Moe, the manager came to our table to ask how everything was. I strongly suggested they keep the Flatbread on their menu and make it one of their signature dishes.


Before we left the restaurant, we headed to their restroom to freshen up. Jody insisted I take a picture of the nice, clean and cute restroom; we were impressed. After lunch, we decided to do a little window shopping at the mall for exercise. It was a fun afternoon with the girls. I thank Jody for opening our eyes (and mouths) to a new place of interest.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Birthday at Azure Mediterranean Grill

A bunch of friends got together last night to celebrate my birthday once more. After our Italian lessons, we headed over to Azure Mediterranean Restaurant in Redondo Beach. I have been there twice in the last month. I was the recipient of  the travelling Birthday Balloon which I will be passing on to the next birthday girl.


We started with the best appetizers. Aside from the hummus you normally get with your pita bread, I ordered the Feta Pomodoro. This is no ordinary dip. It is made with diced Roma tomatoes that are whipped into a creamy Feta cheese drizzled with olive oil with a dash of thyme. There is no yogurt in it, just the feta cheese. This is so good you could literally eat it with a spoon by itself. I also ordered their famous Fried Cauliflower which comes with a Tahini sauce and lemon. It is best with the lemon and some of the feta pomodoro.


We had the Azure Combo Family Style which consisted of Kafta; charbroiled minced lamb & beef and Chicken Kabob served with rice and grilled tomatoes. The combo came with a salad and hummus.  The Eggplant Yogurt Casserole was good though I thought it lacked flavor. I fixed that by adding some salt. The Cheese Lovers Feteer and Italian Sausage Feteer were a big hit. I think we could have eaten just that and everyone would have been happy. Feteers are made with phyllo dough (they make their own) and stuffed with whatever you would like


Before the main dessert, the restaurant sent a pre-dessert on the house. It was the Nutella Feteer. What's funny is I discovered that I was not the only person that did not like Nutella, most of us did not like it for some reason. This Feteer was exceptional. We all loved it. There was a little magic that transpired. First you see it, then you don't. They disappeared as fast as they appeared.


The main dessert followed. A whole Kunafe with Cheese! What is a Kunafe....it is finely shredded phyllo dough stuffed with sweet cream and honey. This was also enjoyed by everyone. I like it because it had the right sweetness from the honey (not too sweet) and the cheese cuts down the sweetness. We had it warm though I am curious if it taste as good or better cold since I like cold desserts.  We had a lot of left over so I can experiment on that and let you know my findings.


I thank my friends for attending the dinner last night. Sara our Italian teacher's sitter cancelled the last minute so she brought Davide along. I thought he would get bored with all the old ladies. He was so well behaved and joined in the conversation. He even drew me a happy birthday picture on a napkin.


We all missed our dear friend Ana (wish she could have joined us) and Berenice who had an emergency. I thank Salma, Farrah and Moe for taking good care of our group last night. Azure Mediterranean Grill is 1810 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Redondo Beach, California.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

BOA Steakhouse

My son gave me a gift card for my birthday 3 years ago. What better time to use it than yesterday, my birthday. Sandi and I went to the location in Santa Monica. They also have one on Sunset Ave. in West Hollywood. It was a beautiful day right across the beach. There were people everywhere crossing the "talking crosswalks". I've never heard them talk before; when you push the button to cross, you hear a voice that says: "WAIT".  We were there when it opened at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday night.  The ambiance was one you would expect for a modern steakhouse.


The menu was extensive. We had to decide which steak to order. Then the question of which sides to have and what potato dish to go with the steak. We both decided not to waste our calories on a salad. The appetizer that we almost ordered but decided not to, was the Goat Cheese Baklava. We already decided we have to go back to try that one. We ended up having the Petite Filet Mignon with Bearnaise sauce. The Brussels Sprouts with bacon sounded good for vegetables. They had a ton of potato dishes but we concentrated on the Signature Dishes. The Truffle Cheese fries stood out and when our server, Seth described it with Gruyere cheese, he didn't have to continue.....that was it.

Bread was brought out; it was roll with rosemary in it and with butter it was good. There goes our agreement not to eat bread when we go to a restaurant; oh well, it was my birthday so the exception was in order. The Filet Mignon was so tender that the fork went through the steak as if it were mashed potatoes. It was so delicious and the Bearnaise was equally wonderful. The Truffle Fries were also yummy with all that cheese and the truffle flavor. It's like we both died and went to heaven. The Brussels Sprouts had to be good with the bacon and the sweet onions.  We were glad we did not order the Goat Cheese Baklava or we would not have been able to enjoy and finish the steak. We did clean our plates. The only left over we had were the fries and the sprouts.


Seth gave me a choice of dessert. It was easy to pick the Baked Alaska. The presentation was impressive. It was very good but to be honest, Dominique's Baked Alaska is much better.


Our great experience at this restaurant was mainly due to the superb service aside from the food. Seth was knowledgeable on the menu as well as the wine list. He contributed a great deal on making my birthday memorable. Cheers to you Seth and thank you very much.


Friday, April 22, 2016

North Italia

This is a new restaurant that opened recently at The Point in El Segundo; a new plaza with a variety of eateries and shops. My friend Mary took me there to celebrate my birthday last night. We got there at 6 p.m when it was not that busy yet. The place had that certain vibe.


I tried to open my purse to get my reading glasses out. As I moved the knob, it went airborne and landed on the floor. The problem now was how do I get my glasses, my phone, my car and house keys out if I could not open the purse. Our server Atziri, a young attractive lady tried her hand at it. She and I tried to pry it open with the cork screw. I was impressed on how long she tried. I was ready to give up when she asked another server if he had a screwdriver. They both disappeared and came back with one and so she tried again. Lo and behold, we heard a snap and she was able to open it. Halleluja! I will have to go to a Ted Baker store and see if they can repair my purse which was a gift from my son 2 years ago.


Now we were able to concentrate on the menu. Mary thought it would be good to order 2 appetizers and skip the salad. I agreed wholeheartedly. The first one was a Grilled Artichoke with sea salt, truffle, grana padano cheese and lemon aioli. These were the best artichokes we have ever had aside from the fried whole artichokes I have had in Italy. The aioli sauce was wonderful.


The other appetizer we had was the Truffle Garlic Bread with homemade ricotta, grana padano cheese and herbs. I can assure you  that you won't find anything like it. They should have a patent on this recipe. Mary and I looked at each other as our eye balls almost fell out of their sockets! They were so light and fluffy yet crusty on the outside and creamy from the ricotta. It was amazing.


For our entrees, we split 2 orders. One was their Bolognese (pronounced Bolon-nye-seh; the E at the end is not silent) and the other one was the Chicken Parmesan. The tagliatelle was cooked aldente and was delicious. The chicken was good with the rigatoni, also cooked aldente. In my opinion, an Italian restaurant that doesn't serve their pasta aldente is not worth being called an "Italian" restaurant.


We ordered the Salted Caramel Budino for dessert. Creme fraiche with Maldon sea salt. It was perfetto. You could taste chunks of the sea salt as the pudding melted in your mouth. The manager, Michael came to our table to take the 2 extra chairs but first asked our permission and because we said it was o.k., he comped our desserts. I took the opportunity to tell him how impressed we were with the service, particularly with Atziri for helping me open my purse. He said: " Oh, you're the screwdriver"........guilty as charged.


The evening turned out to be a great celebration. We did enjoy the bottle of Pinot Noir Mary brought. Their corkage fee is $15. North Italia is open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m everyday, till 10:30 on Friday and Saturday. Their address is 840 S Sepulveda Blvd. #110 in El Segundo, California.