Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Hell of a Cake

This is the best chocolate cake I ever had in my 61 years! Yessssss! My friend Ana asked if I could be the guinea pig for her creation. She always said that her cakes were good but it never looked good. Indeed often times,  looks are the gateway to an exciting culinary adventure.

I did not see the whole cake but the big chunk I got was supposedly lopsided as the caramel in between the layers got heavy therefore hard to make it uniform; so I am told. I did not see any of the imperfections. All I saw was a dark and very moist chocolate cake. It was so moist that it glistened and it looked like nothing was holding the cake together. It reminded me of a sponge with a lot of air pockets. On the side was an extra serving of caramel. In my excitement, I didn't even transfer the cake to a plate for "picture taking". I ate it right off the container.



I had one bite......I was speechless and almost comatose!  The cake was unlike any other cake I have had. It was very moist chocolate and apparently had coffee in it. The caramel also had coffee and had that wonderful burnt taste. It was unbelievable. I gave my son one bite and another bite to a friend. They both loved it. Those 2 bites were all I could spare. I shall continue to savor the rest tomorrow with a strong cup of coffee. I only wish I could share this cake with the rest of you (not my portion) I will try and talk her into taking orders for this fabulous, marvelous cake.




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Croissant Donut at Jack in the Box

I was on a stop sign in my car on my way home from the gym this morning as I happened to see a poster on the window of  Jack in the Box: Croissant Donut. The light turned green and instead of going straight, I turned right and went into the parking lot of Jack in the Box.  I had to investigate what this "cronut" was all about.

While I waited for my turn to order, I saw them popping some of the donuts into the fryer. They were mini donuts so I knew I needed more than a donut for breakfast. I ordered the "meat lovers" burrito which had scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and ham. The donuts came in 3's and if you ordered 2 orders, (6) you get a discount. Who doesn't want a good deal? I left with 1 burrito and 6 croissant donuts.



The burrito tasted better than it looked and the donuts looked better than it tasted. The consistency of the donuts were right on: very light and crispy though it didn't have too many layers.  The problem was it had too much sugar and therefore made it overly sweet.  It reminded me of a Mexican churro since it also had a lot of cinnamon. If it had less sugar it would have tasted better.  If they dipped it in dark chocolate, it would have been even better but I am not close to Jack so I don't think my suggestion would do any good.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Islands

This burger joint has been around for a long time. They specialize in burgers though they are also know for their tortilla soup and many tropical drinks with or without alcohol. Islands have a few locations throughout Southern California.

Last night, a friend and I craved for a hamburger. Since both of us have not been to an Islands for a long time, we figured it was time. They were having a special, for a limited time only; The Nalu Nalu Burger (not nanu nanu as in Mork and Mindy). This burger had grilled onions, roasted garlic aioli and spicy peppers. Sounded good and since both of us were not planning on kissing anyone anytime soon, we thought we would split one and try it.


The other burger we decided to split was the Point Break which had Gruyere and Bleu cheeses, caramelized bacon and onion relish, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Both came with your choice of french fries or onion rings. We wanted the best of both worlds so we ordered both. If I may make a suggestion: ask for a small serving of ranch dressing and add some ketchup to it. This makes an excellent dipping sauce for your fries and onion rings.


We had a difference of opinion on which was the best. Both were very good but I thought the Point Break had a lot more bang to it. She thought the Nalu Nalu was better. Since I am writing the blog,....I rule!  So, there you have it....it's time for you to form your own opinion and prove me and my friend right or wrong.

The Islands we went to was the one at the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Ubon Thai Kitchen

This small Thai restaurant at 24631 Crenshaw Blvd. #J  in Torrance is a "must try" place for either lunch or dinner.  I have been here numerous times and just never had the time to blog about it.


Though I have not tried everything on the menu and would like to, I can't seem to order something different as the best dishes so far are the ones I keep ordering. Let me start by telling you that you have to order the Panang Curry with your choice of meat (chicken, pork, beef, tofu, mock chicken?). We always order the chicken. Panang is made with creamy coconut Panang curry with bell peppers and kaffir-lime leaf. I don't like curry and I don't like coconut BUT, the coconut milk with curry is heavenly especially all over white rice. I prefer the sauce to be thicker; luckily I had a little Ziploc of instant food thickener in my purse (left over from dinner with my husband a few days ago), so I added some to the sauce and Voila.....the perfect consistency!


The other dish that goes well with the Panang is the Crispy Lemongrass Chicken which is deep fried marinated chicken with lemongrass and coconut milk served with a side of mixed greens. Forget the mixed greens which by the way you will have to ask for a dressing as it comes fully naked. The chicken is nice and crispy; you will have to ask for extra sauce as the sauce they furnish is only good for 2-3 pieces of chicken.


If there are more than 2 of you, might as well order the Crab Fried Rice and the Phat Thai. Both are delicious. They have a variety of drinks that looked interesting and will have to try next time. We once had the Sticky Rice with Mango but that is seasonal and I guess, September is not the season for mangoes.


You arrive at Ubon hungry and you leave full and happy. Ubon is a few doors from IHOP in the the same center where Home Depot and Home Goods are located.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Porktato at Yellow Fever

Porktato, a new dish at the Yellow Fever . My niece Aimee sent me a picture of it and wanted me to try it since it was 5 minutes from my home. I did not want to let her down so I sent my son to get a few of the Porktatoes 2  nights ago.

What is a porktato? It is a baked potato with pork belly, 4 kinds of cheese, sour cream, green onions, kona sauce (tamarind katsu) and a fried egg. It is as good and rich as it looks. The only bad thing about it is: today, Sept. 13, 2014 is the last day they are serving it. It was a "special" for a limited time. I tried to talk to Kelly, the owner and chef but she was unavailable. Maybe, if enough of us beg, she is bound to bring back the porktato.


If you've never heard of Yellow Fever before, see previous blog:
http://solittlethyme.blogspot.com/2014/02/yellow-fever.html

Yellow Fever is located at 24416 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance, California. Their phone number is (310) 539-2249.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Luna Hotel Baglioni

We had the pleasure of staying at this 5 star hotel in Venice recently. We had 3 rooms for the 8 of us. We went by water taxi to their private jetty just in front of the hotel which is situated a stone's throw from Piazza San Marco. Our check-in was quick and efficient. I had purchased a private tour through City Wonders to visit Murano. We didn't make it on time as we were held up in traffic driving from Banja Luka, Bosnia.  Unfortunately, the tickets were non refundable. I explained this to the man on the desk and he informed me that the hotel can arrange a private tour for us and would take us all the way to Murano and back for free whenever we wanted. We were delighted by this news! We got to our rooms and were very pleased by the appearance and the welcome plate of chocolate covered strawberries, gooseberries meringues and fruit tarts all of which we consumed.


Reservations were made for our first evening at Canova, the hotel's fine dining restaurant. See my food blog for details: http://solittlethyme.blogspot.com/2014/09/canova.html

Breakfast which was included was a buffet served at a beautiful and elegant room which is reserved for private parties and weddings. This was not your typical buffet in America. It was more about quality than quantity. I always love the eggs in Europe as they taste so much better than American eggs. The yolks are vibrant orange. Even the bacon was exceptionally good; not crispy but very flavorful. The salmon was fresh as can be and the mozzarella balls were nice with the different slices of meats. Of course there was fresh fruit which I completely ignored (can get those anywhere). The pastries were as good as L'Amande Bakery; first class.


I had a list of restaurants to investigate and Pierluigi took my list and went down the line until he was able to make the reservations for the following evening. We had planned to visit Padua. Pierluigi made the necessary arrangements for a minivan to take us there. Our trip was so enjoyable because of the driver that was the best guide and ended up taking us to a restaurant which was out of the way in Padua and where we had one of the best dining experience.

Our 5 nights in Venice went by so fast and our stay at the Luna Hotel Baglioni was like a dream. The service was truly impeccable and unlike any hotel we have ever stayed. This is when the saying: "You get what you pay for" is a fact. We couldn't have expected anything more. They went above and beyond the call of duty. 

A member of my family left his reading glasses in the room. I called them up 2 days after and offered to pay for postage to mail it back. They sent it within a few days with their complements. Now, that's a real five star hotel!

Molte Grazie Pierluigi Santini. 


Luna Hotel Baglioni's address is San Marco, 1243 30124 Venezia, Italia.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Providence

We celebrated my brother's belated birthday last night at Providence. Making a reservation meant giving my credit card so in case we decided not to show up or fail to cancel 48 hours prior to the reservation time, they would charge $100 per person on the card.  Luckily, we made it even before our time.

The dilemma was which prix fixe menu to order. The Providence Market Menu, The Signature & Seasonal Menu or the Chef's Tasting Menu which takes about 3 hours to consume. The birthday boy chose the Signature Seasonal Menu which list 6 items but we actually got a total of 11 courses with all the extra surprises.

They started us out with a Gelee with beer and rum. I must apologize for the dark pictures as I didn't have my flash on nor did I have my glasses on, so the picture looked good at the time. That slid right on to our throats. It tasted like jello but not like any jello you've had before. The first surprise was a Taco with sushi rice and scallop wrapped in a Kombu leaf. We all loved that one. We could have had a couple of those. They presented us next with a rock with 2 sticks and something at the end of them. It was Abalone on one end and Squid with chorizo on the other. The chorizo went well with the squid and the mighty abalone held up it's own. After the rock, came a box of cigars. No, it was not time for us to smoke....yet, the cigar box was filled with 3 pieces of rolled up beef with some cream.. The problem with all  theses "extras" is, when they bring it to your table, they rattle the lengthy explanations while you get distracted by what is put in front of you. I wish they would include them in the menu so we can study and appreciate it before AND after. I would have those cigars anytime. After the cigars came a little bowl of Consomme Soup with mozzarella served with crackers with something creamy then topped with salmon roe. The soup and the salty cracker went well together. A small roll of Tuna Tartare with chives came along and went; inhaled it. I have to tell you that we had some of their rolls with butter and salt. So at this point we were already starting to get full and we haven't started on the signature menu yet!


The first thing on the menu was a Sashimi with basil seeds, jelly melon, celebrity tomatoes, (no paparazzi in site), ginger and finger lime. This was interesting as I have never had basil seeds. The presentation was beautiful as if the naked sashimi had to be dressed. It was as delicious as it looked.
The second item was called the Ugly Bunch though there was nothing ugly about them. In fact, it was the prettiest item on the menu. I guess they called it ugly because it was composed of ugly creatures like abalone, geoduck, and sea urchin. Chef Michael Cimarusti aka plastic surgeon did a great job! The bunch of assorted shellfish was swimming in creme fraiche panna cotta, dressed with gold and some edible flowers.


The Salt Roasted Spot Prawns had rosemary, lemon and extra virgin olive oil. This presentation was a show in itself. The salt is first baked to 500 degrees and the live shrimps are put in there just for 5 minutes then they are taken out of the salt bath and the server immediately scrapes the excess salt and goes on to make the incision to cut them in half which was good as we were not in the mood to peel shrimps. I think the shrimps were already comatose before they did the dive as I don't recall seeing squirmy shrimps. It reminded me of the time I had some drunken shrimps wherein the live shrimps were doused with beer and they got cooked that way. Deeeelicious!


It was now time for the fourth course which was Maine Lobster with slivered slices of mushrooms and I don't know what else. By this time, we were struggling as our stomachs were almost full to the brim and we had not had the wagyu yet. We did enjoy the succulent and juicy lobster.  A few minutes past when they brought the final dish which was the Wagyu with some Japanese eggplant, okra and plum. I was only able to have 2 small bites which melted in my mouth. The okra was great. Sandi and I could no longer have another bite of food but Gary continued on! I guess he didn't want to hurt his sister's feelings.


Dessert arrived. We had the mascarpone with fig, cherry, fennel frond and pistachio. Somehow, we were able to eat that. Gary had a different dessert; I think it was a ginger panna cotta with pistachio ice cream and crumbled macaron. The macaron was good but we thought the pistachio ice cream had a peculiar after taste. The consensus was the desserts can and should be improved upon especially after an excellent meal! A plate of petit fours was served after our dessert. We did enjoy the caramels.



Providence is expensive but no doubt, you will get your money's worth. They even had printed next to the menu a "Happy Birthday Gary" which was a nice tough. They do go the extra mile and service was impeccable. Thanks to our server, Tavis who made sure we were well taken care of.


Providence is located at 5955 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles.