Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Old But New Scratch Bar

I have been to the old Scratch Bar in March this year. I loved it and was upset when I heard it closed. Then there was news that it really didn't close and that one of the owners was opening another restaurant; then there was an article that it was not doing well and they had these specials to draw in business. Whatever you may have read or heard, I am here to tell you that the new chef; Chef Evaldo Garcia rocks!

We had made reservations for 5 p.m. and we were the only ones till about 5:30 p.m. There is a big advantage of going early. Some people like to go to dinner late to be part of the "happening". They like to see and be seen. I don't care to see or be seen.....correction, I might get a bit excited if I see Richard Gere. I go to a restaurant to enjoy the company and the food.

Our server, Henry was the best. He explained that the new chef was into Molecular Gastronomy which always guarantees excitement and surprise. We opted for the 6 course menu for $65. Henry explained the Shooters to us: The Insalata Caprese, Sopa de Gazpacho and Strawberry Shortcake. These regular things turned into something totally different. I could not contain my excitement. Chef Evaldo sent us all 3 shooters to sample. The first one was the Sopa de Gazpacho served in a shot glass. This was a tomato that was liquefied in a centrifuge topped with an avocado puree. I couldn't get over how the tomato turned white. One had to suck it all in. It was not easy since the avocado was thick but after a few tries, the whole thing landed in my mouth. The second one was the Strawberry shooter to cleanse the palate, It had a piece of shortcake on top which we were supposed to eat first. It was hard not to get whipped cream on your nose but who cares; a little whipped cream on one's nose never hurt anyone before. The third one was my favorite and most impressive Insalata Caprese. I am sure you haven't had a caprese served this way before. The green jello is the basil, the red is the tomato and the white stuff is the mozzarella cheese. The shiny balls were the balsamic vinegar that burst in your mouth when you sucked it all in. This blew my mind!  These shooters require a lot of sucking but you'll be happy with the end result.

The Garlic Laffa Bread (house baked) that was served was very good but the balsamic vinegar on the olive oil was unlike any other I have had. It was a bit sweet. I was ready to buy bottles of whatever it was but unfortunately it was not for sale. The chef made his own. The next dish was a Scallop that was pan seared on a bed of butternut squash puree. This was followed by a Carpaccio with homemade cheese crisp and mustard. It was absolutely delicious. I loved it!

The Branzino Filet came next. This was pan seared and was served with asparagus, baby zucchini, parsnip puree and braised vine tomatoes. The ever so tender meat just fell apart and crispy skin was quite tasty. The last course before dessert was the Chargrilled Filet Steak served with roasted fingerling potatoes, wild mushrooms, asparagus in an onion glaze. That was a most tender filet and the onion glaze complemented it very well.

We sampled 2 different desserts. One looked like an ordinary parfait of mango, raspberry and cream topped with blueberries and strawberries. It was far from ordinary. It was crisp and refreshing; not too tart and not too sweet. It was just perfect. The other one was a chocolate chip cookie. I guarantee you once more that you have never had anything like it. It was warm, soft and I can only think of one word to describe it; UNBELIEVABLE. Together with the ice cream, it's like you died and went to heaven.

Chef Evaldo came out periodically to check up on us. At the end of our meal he came to chat with us. This man is so humble which makes him even more charming. He is from Puerto Rico and went to N.Y. to study classical music but was also interested in comedy so he came to L.A. and spent some time running the comedy circuits. His real passion was cooking. He watched his mom cook ever since he was little. His friends talked him into being a chef and after working at Melisse, Bouchon, to name a few, he decided to fly solo.

This Scratch Bar is located at 111 N. La Cienega in Beverly Hills California. It is right across Lawry's and right beside Matsuhisa. Chef Evaldo told us he realizes he has big shoes to fill. Though the former Scratch Bar was very good and impressive as well. The present Scratch Bar is just as good if not better. It did not disappoint.

Addendum: Please see corrections on comments below.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cottage Cheese and What?

I am trying to eat better and do my body good (yeah right!).  A few days ago I bought the Lowfat Cottage Cheese with Pineapple made by Knudsen. I thought the pineapple would at least give it a little sweet flavor. I also bought one of those healthy yogurts that  had a bit of pineapple. I mixed a little of both. It was boring but tolerable.

Today, I am out of yogurt thank God, and as I looked down on the bowl of 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, I almost cried and felt sorry for myself. I had to put something in it. On my counter was an open package of dried apricots and some potato chips. How bad could it I experimented.

Believe it or not; it worked. The chewy apricots went well to resurrect the "blahness" of the cottage cheese. The crunchiness of the potato chips made things exciting. I know it might sound awful to some but that's only because you have not tried it. Think chocolate with bacon or sea salt chocolate....these are things we did not have years ago till someone was bold enough to experiment. Try it, if you like it let me know by commenting below the blog. If you think it is disgusting, don't bother to comment; to each his own.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Farewell to JuJuya

Today is a sad day. It is the last evening Chef Mako will be working his magic at his restaurant. This was the hill's pride and joy. I called it my little "Nobu".

I met my friend Cora and though she has never been to the restaurant because of her very busy schedule, she was happy to have been able to sample the wonderful food.

We started with the Yellowtail Carpaccio with sizzling sesame ginger garlic sauce followed by the the Crab Spring Rolls with tarragon aioli. I had to order the Crispy Oysters with basil sauce and black olive tapenade. These are absolutely delicious. The Miso Chilean Sea Bass that is not to be missed was not missed! The flaky fresh fish had a nice flavor and went well with the rice they served.

We ended with the Caterpillar which consisted of salmon, smoked trout, avocado and wasabi sour cream. Dessert was going to be the Apple Tart in which I usually order with 2 scoops of caramel ice cream. While we waited for our apple tart, the manager Q. brought us a cheesecake since they ran out of apple tarts. The cheesecake was delicious. Just as we finished it, a server brought us the apple tart with the ice cream. So we had to force ourselves to eat some of it. We did a great job as we cleaned both plates!

JuJuya was the best restaurant in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Note to the chef:  I will truly miss you and I wish you success on your next endeavor.

Ruby's on the Hill

After Saturday mass, my friend Mimi and I went to Ruby's. She could not forget how good the Clam Chowder was the last time so she ordered a bowl. This clam chowder is so thick that you really get a good feeling in your tummy.

I knew I wanted a burger and there were a few that looked tempting but ended up ordering the Mushroom Swiss Burger. It comes in a regular bun but I opted for sourdough; our server informed me there was a minimal extra charge since they baked their bread in house. I took the plunge and went for it. I really should have ordered a DIET drink with this burger and fries. Should have but did not.....instead I had to have my very favorite Coffee Shake (they make the best). Because of the zillion calories, I sacrificed and had the "Kid" size.

One thing about Ruby's Diner, it is consistently good. It is a family restaurant, so usually there are a ton of kids and may sometimes be noisy. If you're not on a hot date and want to enjoy comfort food, this is still a good place to go.

Ruby's Diner is located on the Promenade in the Peninsula at 550 Deep Valley Dr. Rolling Hills Estates in California.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Cafe Sevilla

A friend and I went to see a play in Long Beach which we both didn't care for, so during the intermission, we both thought it was wise to cut our losses and go for a nice dinner somewhere nearby. We ended up at Cafe Sevilla, the Spanish restaurant. This nice cafe/restaurant is also a bar and a nightclub with dance classes on a certain night and a Flamenco show which you could purchase tickets.

They had small plates on the menu which we intended to order but one thing for sure; we had to try a Paella dish, after all this was a Spanish restaurant.  To start, we ordered Sevilla's Daily Baked Bread which was Olive. This $6.00 bread serves 2 and it was fully consumed by the 2 of us. The warm bread was served with a homemade aioli & Andalusian tomato sauce which I ended up asking for more. To drink, we had to have Sangria of course. I had the red and my friend ended up having a white one.

There were so many things I wanted to try from the menu but had to contain myself. We started with Gambas al Ajillo; garlic shrimp cooked with chile arbol & white wine. We had to have meat so the Flat Iron Castellano sounded good; grilled with crumbled Valdeon bleu cheese & Rioja red wine. For the paella, we both decided on the Six Sausage Paella; morcilla, longaniza, chistorra, two chorizos & merguez. Everything was delicious.

My only complaint was the plate was too small, reason being we did not eat the food one at a time. We like to eat everything all at the same time. You know, a little of this, a little of that, a sip of wine and back to a little more of this and that.

We were too full for dessert but could not resist to try the Leche Frita which is deep fried vanilla custard. One word to describe it: yummy and yes, this could easily feed 2-3 people.

Cafe Sevilla is located at 140 Pine Ave. in Long Beach, California.  Check out their website for schedule of shows and their menus.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Assumption Abbey Fruitcake

My friend Di mentioned in his facebook page that his mom told him the best fruitcake is made by the Trappist monks. I have had cheese and wine made by the Trappist monks in Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina a year ago; but never their fruitcake. A cousin of mine mentioned that she has had it and it was delicious.

The first thing I did was google fruitcake made by Trappist monks. The video on how they made the fruitcake intrigued me.

The fruitcake is made with lots of butter, brown sugar, currants, red & green cherries, pineapple, lemons, oranges, walnut & pecans, raisins, burgundy wine and injected with rum. If that does not make you want to try this fruitcake, I don't know what will.....

This 2 lb. fruitcake comes in a pretty tin can. I served it with a bit of whipped cream. Everyone liked it and had the same comment which was "It is unlike any fruitcake I have had". It is dense and very moist.

The bonus you get is a special blessing. The monks pray over the fruitcakes for the people that will be consuming them. Does this mean, we get holy calories?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Yellow Vase

It's been at least 3 years since I have been to the Yellow Vase in Rolling Hills Estates. The only reason I haven't been was the opening of L'Amande Bakery in Torrance. Once you've had the best, it is hard to go anywhere else. Since the closure of my favorite bakery, I thought I would venture on to both old and new places. After all, life goes on.

After attending mass up the hill, Sandi and I thought it would be a great idea to try Yellow Vase. She has never been there. I had forgotten how cute and cozy it is decorated mostly the color scheme of yellow and blue with a yellow rose on each table.  We ordered the "Morning" Crepe which has scrambled eggs, ham and cheese and the Brioche French Toast with toasted almonds and strawberries.

The crepe came with a salad. Had one bite of it and that was it....very sour. That was not a good thing to experience at 8:45 in the morning.  Sandi didn't even try after she saw the expression on my face. We both imagined the crepe to have fluffy scrambled eggs with ham and melted Swiss cheese inside. Our imagination may have run wild. The crepe was doughy, could hardly see anything scrambled. There was something yellow (went with the decor) stuck to the inside of the doughy crepe and there were slices of ham.

The French Toast looked good and I do remember having it and thinking it was good. Sandi and I did not like it. It looked better than it tasted. The problem was it was not soaked long enough in the egg and milk mixture. The inside was dry.

The Yellow Vase has several locations in the Palos Verdes area and in Redondo Beach. I am sorry to say, it was not worth our time having breakfast there. I will continue to wish and pray that L'Amande Bakery come back soon and "rock" the South Bay like they used to!