Monday, October 17, 2016

Andrea at Pelican Hill

We were all invited to this restaurant at the beautiful Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach, California.  When I made the reservations, they informed me that they only offered the Express Lunch; a 3 course prix fixe; choice of soup, salad or appetizer, an entree and a gelato.

I ordered champagne for the table though some preferred cocktails which they ordered. The restaurant was not crowded at all so it was very upsetting to me that it was after 1:00 pm by the time everyone (18 people) got their drinks. We were all there at noon though we had to wait for them to remove several place settings since 3 people could not come. The appetizers did not start coming until 1:30 pm. We only had 1 waiter that catered to us and one lady that just filled our water glasses. One of the salads was Arugula with artichokes; that didn't have much flavor. My salad was good but only because it had a ton of prosciutto which is salty so it's hard to screw that up. The Burrata was nothing special. I was not sure about the Endive salad since I didn't get to ask how it was.

Majority of the people ordered the Grilled Sea Bass with baby kale sprouts, roasted potatoes with lemon oil & parsley dressing. It was perfectly cooked though in my opinion it lacked flavor. Some people did like it. The other entreé was the Gnocchi with bolognese sauce. According to Eric, it was good. Ross and I had the Lasagna with mushrooms. That was a complete disappointment. I wanted parmesan cheese and there was no one to ask, all servers must have taken a break. The lady whose job it was to fill the water glasses came, so I asked her for some cheese. By the time she came with the cheese, my pasta was cold. I finished mine only because I was starving as it was past 2:00  pm by then. I must mention that one of the guests talked to the person in charge to let her know that service was so bad and we were waiting too long. She was assured that she would take care of it. She even mentioned that another guest is a food blogger so they better do something! The something was a 20% discount. Trinity had the Risotto which was tasteless and uncooked for her taste so she sent it back and got the Sea Bass instead. I wonder if others were just being polite in saying their food was good.

Our server informed me that someone wanted more champagne towards the end of the meal. He asked if he should just give her a glass and I said yes of course. It turned out, there was still left over champagne in the bottle that one of the guests discovered at the end of our meal. I also discovered 3 more people had more champagne which he took the liberty of just giving them "by the glass". At that point, we could have had another bottle which was unopened, sitting in the bucket of ice.

Dessert came with our "EXPRESS" (slow boat to China), meal. I haven't seen such a tiny serving of gelato in a tiny bowl. I'm glad some people ordered other desserts. I had a bite from Sandi's chocolate with fig dessert; all I can say was it was chocolate and the fig was not ripe enough. A bunch of us ordered coffee and cappuccino. The coffee came but no cream. I had to ask the water lady for cream, so off she went in search for cream. The cappuccinos were all cold! We sent those back. For some miracle, my coffee was real hot so it was still warm when the cream arrived.

I can explain the whole experience in one word; disastrous.  First of all, they should not advertise this prix fixe as Express because nothing was quick; everything was in slow motion. We probably could have taken naps in between the 3 courses. The person in charge didn't approach us to apologize. I guess she thought the 20% was very generous. Not only will I never organize a meal at this restaurant, I am confident the other polite guests will not be returning either.

A good manager would have asked what she could have done to make us happy. I totally do not expect this from a "classy" restaurant in at a 5-star luxury resort. There is definitely no excuse.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Another Simple Dinner

When Fairoz invites you for dinner, it is no ordinary dinner. It is called a feast! She and her husband invited 3 of us for dinner. She swears it was no trouble at all and that she is used to cooking for her family when the kids and grand kids come over.

Hors d' oeuvres were a variety of nuts and an assortment of wonderful Syrian Baklava. That was to wet our appetite of what was to come. When she started bringing the food our their balcony overlooking the ocean, we were all shocked as she brought out the salad which was followed by stuffed potatoes, grilled lamb, barbecued beef kofta, lamb, and "giant" ribeye. For vegetables, she had made stuffed eggplant, peppers and zucchini. At this point, I was expecting a belly dancer to come out to entertain us while we were eating. Everything was delicious and we were all overstuffed like her veggies.

Raymond and Alma brought Sans Rival (French, meaning no rival); a Filipino dessert that is made with layers of buttercream, meringue and chopped cashews. They also brought Brazo de Mercedes; translated is arms of Mercedes. This is another Filipino dessert that is made of soft meringue around a custard filling. The arms of Mercedes were obviously not muscular, they were more dimply or jiggly. Both desserts were edible.

At the end of the evening, we were forced (yeah, right) to take some food home. Since we did not want to hurt Fairoz and Medhat's feelings, we took enough to feed another army. I warned them both that when I have them over for a simple will be just that, very simple. They may have to eat first before coming over!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hors d' Oeuvres

I tried to recreate Mertz's sourdough toasts on my previous blog entitled Guests at Mertz's Cabin.  Instead of reading my blog to refresh my terrible memory, I just thought I would wing it. I bought the sourdough French bread and added a bit of bacon fat to the butter which I spread over the toasted bread. In a bowl, I mixed goat cheese instead of feta (thought she used goat cheese) and added Japanese mayonnaise and bacon jam. I did not get the same flavor so I added a bit of mustard then topped it with a bit of chopped bacon and basil. I had to make a few without the bacon for my vegetarian friend. Everyone thought it was good and it was, but nothing like Mertz's! The first picture is my imitation toasts and below it was Mertz's. Mine looks like it just had the flu!

I found some burrata cheese so I mixed that with some olive oil, salt and balsamic glaze and served them in individual spoons which was very good. I served some cheese which was just ready made from the market with crackers. I also bought Bristol Farms own regular flavor Pita Chips which I think are fried; reason for it being deliciously insane especially after dipping it in their own Chili Con Queso dip!  We had to have something substantial so I got some chicken wings at Wing Stop. They had numerous flavors. I got the Lemon Pepper and the Louisiana Rub which was a bit spicy. They also offer various dips to go with the chicken: ranch, blue cheese, honey mustard and cheese sauce. I liked the ranch since it did not overpower the chicken which already had lots of flavor.

After all the hors d' oeuvres, I served Calamansi Pie (Philippine lime) which I made with Sandi's Key Lime recipe. It was good but not as good as the one I had at Toby's in the Philippines.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pancit Bihon

It has been at least 40 years ago since I made Pancit Bihon (rice noodles Filipino style). This was my grandmother's recipe and the reason for me not making it as often as I would like to is because there's a lot of work involved. You have to chop all the vegetables and the secret, according to Lola Neny is to fry each vegetable separately. For this experiment, I needed guinea pigs so I invited, the Nakasatos and Sandi over for dinner.

I also thought I would make Puto (native rice cake) which I left in the oven a tad too long so it turned yellowish and a bit crusty on top. It was a blessing in disguise because I thought it tasted better. Unlike the traditional puto, this was more like a muffin. The pancit was very good if I may say so myself. Everyone loved it. I will have to try to make it without individually frying the veggies to see if it will make a big difference. Since I was not sure the pacsit would turn out edible, I went to Tacolipino a Mexican/Filipino restaurant and ordered Pork Sisig, and Bangus (milkfish) Sisig which was very good.

With all the work I had to do, I knew dessert had to be store bought. Since we were indulging in Filipino food, it was only natural to get my favorite cake from the Filipino bakery; Coffee Crunch Cake from Red Ribbon in Carson.

 All the guinea pigs went home happy and full.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fishing With Dynamite

It's been three years since I was at Fishing with Dynamite restaurant. The last time I was there, my friend and I were seated next to a couple that ordered the fresh shellfish platter and the tables being so close together, I was tempted to take an oyster from the platter.

This early evening, I went with Sujata who didn't used to eat oysters but thank God she has been "born again".  Since my eating partner Sandi is in the east coast, I thought it was a perfect time to indulge since she does not like fresh oysters or mussels. She hasn't seen the light yet.

We were there at 5 pm and there were already a few people. Our first server, Levi was kind and very accommodating. He first informed us that there was no lobster so they would just give us extra crab. I never order crab because it is not fun to eat it; it takes away from my eating pleasure so I asked if he would have the kitchen really crack them and he said it would not be a problem. He returned after a few minutes to inform us that the lobster has arrived!

The platter arrived with 3 different kinds of Oysters, Clams, Mussels, 4 jumbo Shrimps and 1/2 Atlantic Lobster. The lobster was semi-cracked. At this time, we had a different server named Casey who was just as nice as Levi. Sujata and I looked at the lobster and asked Casey if she would have the kitchen do a little surgery on our lobster. She happily took it away and returned the naked lobster to us all ready for consumption. It was cooked to perfection, plump and juicy. The oysters were super delicious and so were the shrimps and mussels. There was a array of sauces. The sauce wherein the mussels were cooked, ponzu sauce, and 4 condiments.

When we finished our Shellfish Platter, we split an order of the Crab Cake. We have had this the last time we were at the restaurant and remembered how good it was. It seemed even better this time. It's one of the best crab cakes I have had; chunks of crab with the mustard remoulade served with the in house dill pickle which complemented the crab cake beautifully.

I heard the party next to us order rice and I was happy they now have that on the menu because three years ago, we ordered the Whole Snapper which was fabulous (signature dish). The problem was we wanted rice or potatoes to go with it and the only thing they had was French fries which was good but not the perfect pair.

We remembered the dessert we ordered last time; Pretzel and Chocolate Bread Pudding with salted caramel and marscapone ice cream. That was insanely delicious. They are also known for the Key Lime Pie so we decided to split one. It was very good but I must say, nothing beats the Pretzel and Chocolate Bread Pudding.  See previous blog:

I have to mention that the place being so small and people close together can get very noisy. The loud music did not help so it was hard to hear each other. I asked Casey if it was possible to turn down the music a bit. She agreed to do so with a smile on her face. Both our servers could not have been nicer.

I look forward to going back to Fishing with Dynamite hopefully sooner than the last time. I won't be waiting another 3 years and that's for sure. Fishing with Dynamite is located at 1148 Manhattan Ave. in Manhattan Beach, California.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

La Montina Wine Dinner at Obicà

Last week, five of us attended the La Montina Wine Dinner held at Obicà in Santa Monica. In case you have not heard of Obicà Mozzarella Bar in Santa Monica and in Century City, it is time you drive up to one of these locations and have their amazing Mozzarella di Bufala. It is the best you'll ever have as it is flown twice a week directly from Napoli.

As soon as we entered the room for the event, we were all handed a glass of the La Montina Franciacorta Brut. This very drinkable sparkling wine is made from 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir. The wine spends at least 24 months on the lees. The 4 course dinner included sampling of Caviar.  Paolo and his wife Elisabetta, the distributors of the wine and caviar, came around and had us sample the Calvisius Caviar Tradition, Siberian and the Oscietra. Michele was the representative for La Montina Wine who explained the history of La Montina which is located in territory of Franciacorta, a section of the province of Brescia in the Italian region of Lombardy. The other sparkling wine served which we all loved was the Franciacorta Rosé Millesimato 2009 Extra Brut. It has 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay; spends at least 30 months on the lees. There was no shortage on refilling our glasses to which ever you preferred.

Our first course was the Burrata con Bottarga Sarda, Ricci di Mare e Salmone. Translated: Burrata with Sardinian mullet roe, sea urchin and wild-caught salmon. These buttery and creamy burrata went very well with the various toppings. The second course was the Carpaccio di Branzino; Italian Sea Bass carpaccio with citrus, extra virgin olive oil; delicious.

The main entree was a Ravioli d'Astice; Maine Lobster Homemade Ravioli, with lemon zest, fresh thyme, lobster bisque and crispy zucchini. The ravioli was aldente and the lobster was excellent. Nothing overpowered the lobster. All the flavors came together beautifully. Dessert was a very light and a bit tangy Panna Cotta al Frutto della Passione; panna cotta with fresh passion fruit. A great way to end the meal; with a fruit.

Alesssandra, the regional manager of Obicà came to chat with us and introduced us to Vincenzo the restaurant manager. By the time we left the restaurant, we all felt we acquired new Italian friends. We all thank Alessandra, Vincenzo, Michele, Paolo and Elisabetta for everything. Grazie per una bella serata.