Friday, February 5, 2016

Valentino

Last weekend, I took a friend to Valentino's in Santa Monica. I had a voucher which I got from Groupon. For $149 (dinner for 2), you would get your choice of an antipasti, primi, secondi and of course, dolce.
I have been to Valentino's numerous times in the past and have not had a bad meal yet. Service is always very good. My guest was appreciative of the dinner invitation that he insisted on ordering the wine. We enjoyed a bottle of Barolo by  Michele Chiarlo.


My guest and I ordered the same antipasti which was Polpo Alla Griglia E Fregola Al Nero; translated is Grilled Octopus with Squid Ink Fregula. Fregula is a type of pasta from Sandinia. We both loved the texture and it was just a lovely dish. Before that, they served an assortment of bread and an amuse bouche of Mozzarella with tomatoes and a fried or baked croquette.


Primi was a no-brainer. We both had the Lasagne with Duck Ragu and Porcini Mushroom. We both loved the lasagne. The noodles were nice and thin served aldente and just plain wonderful.


For our secondi, my friend had the Veal Piccata with capers and lemon. I had a bite of that and loved it. I thought I would eat healthy (after the lasagne) so I decided on the Branzino Alla Livornese, grilled with capers, olives and tomatoes. Believe it or not, I enjoyed that fish.


Dessert was the Chef's selection. It was a Budino alla Vaniglia e Cantucci Crocante. This dessert was quite impressive. It looked like a fried egg. I can't remember what the yolk was made out of; probably a fruity mousse like maybe apricot? Whatever it was, it was very good with the different textures. We thoroughly enjoyed it. That was my fruit for the day!


I have to thank Frederick (the great)  our server, for being so attentive and entertaining. I had forgotten to take a picture of the Budino that Frederick offered to go to the kitchen and take one for me. It was nice to see Piero Selvaggio on our way out. Signor Selvaggio, I salute you once more.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

dineLA Terrine

Unfortunately, I could not have dinner every night during the 2 weeks of dineLA. I tried to get as much as I could in the 2 weeks in January 2016. One solution was to try the lunch menu.

Gary, Sandi and I decided to try Terrine. For $20, it was almost a no-brainer. The menu looked good. My only regret was the Foie Gras Terrine was not listed. I was tempted to order it for $22 but Gary talked me out of it. The idea of us going to 2 course meal was to only pay the $20.00.  Keep in mind that valet is $8.00 plus tip.


Gary and I had the Lobster Bisque which was delicious but was served warm, borderline cold. We did not bother to send it back since we didn't want to wait as service was on the slow side. Sandi had the Salade of Frisee which included a poached egg. She raved about the dressing. It looked to healthy for me. Gary ordered the Crispy Chicken Sandwich which he seemed to enjoy as all I could hear him say was " Um...ummm...um."  Sandi and split the Truffled Grilled Cheese with caramelized shallots and the Terrine Burger with truffle butter aioli and tomatoes. We were both very happy with our sandwiches.


I must mention that $20 seems cheap and affordable for lunch, but by the time you add drinks, in this case, diet coke was $4.00 and aside from the sales tax, they add a 3% Healthy L.A. What you may ask is a Healthy L.A? It's helping the owners provide health insurance to their employees. I didn't want to spoil the lunch by getting into it so we just paid it. In the meantime, I got a chance to call Terrine later to ask about it. Their response was:  "It is an optional charge."  I asked the lady on the phone that if indeed it was optional, why were we not asked? They are counting on having a "conversation" with the customers, so if they don't like the idea then they would have the option of not paying it. She further told me that if they had it on the menu, people would not see it. Yeah......who are they kidding....(us); they just figured they could get away with it. Very sneaky.

I just decided I can live without the Foie Gras Terrine.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

dineLA Lawry's

So sorry if you're sick of me talking about Lawry's. We just could not pass on the $49 dinner deal which included the Famous Spinning Bowl Salad, California Cut of Roasted Prime Ribs of Beef with mashed potatoes and Yorkshire Pudding with Broiled Nova Scotia Lobster Tail.

We celebrated Piero's birthday there 2 nights ago. He too never gets tired of Lawry's. We made it a point to get there before our reservation so we could enjoy a couple of meatballs, though Piero thought he needed more than a couple. Their homemade potato chips are almost the best and I say almost because it lacks salt. This time I remembered to pack some in a tiny ziplock and happily sprinkled some on my chips.


I thought we would start with an order of Shrimp Cocktail which I have had in the past. It was nice and plump. We enjoyed them with lemon and cocktail sauce. We loved our server, Miss Sargent. Before she tossed our salad, she whispered something to Piero and before we knew what was going on, he was standing by the spinning salad ready to do the honors. In all my years of coming to Lawry's I was never asked to do it. It was a very nice touch which made the birthday boy feel special.


After the good sourdough bread, shrimp cocktail and the salad, we were ready for the main event. The prime rib was a good portion. We were asked if we wanted any sides. Creamed corn is always a must no matter what. We were not aware that this was not included in the menu; just so you know, it was $7.00 extra. It was not a problem because I would have ordered it anyway though it would have been nice if it was included. The Lobster tail was downright heavenly. Again I am amazed how they cook this to perfection. Sure it's only a few bites but with all that butter, that's all you need.


The dinner was delicious and filling.  Before we ordered our desserts which was included in the dinner menu, Miss Sargent and her team brought out an English Trifle for Piero which is always light and refreshing. Piero ordered the Chocolate Fantasy Creme which was a mousse with white chocolate shavings on top and whipped cream.  Sandi and I opted for the Apple a la Mode with sea salt caramel.  Sandi didn't care much for pie. What do you expect from someone who bakes delicious pies and bread pudding all the time. I liked that the apples were not mushy; it had a bit of a crunch to it and went well with the ice cream. The sea salt caramel was hardly there. I think next time I will have to ask for a little cup of caramel.


After almost finishing a bottle of wine between 2 people since one can't drink red wine, all 3 of us felt like we needed to be loaded up on a wheelbarrow as we were unable to move. Well, Sandi did have some left overs so technically she could have pushed the wheelbarrow with me and Piero in it.  I am happy to report that so far, dinner at Lawry's has never been a disappointment.




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thomas' Maple French Toast English Muffin

A week ago I bought Thomas' Multi-grain English Muffin. It was too healthy for me. When I toasted it, it got very hard. I didn't care for it at all. So, as soon as I finished that batch, I went back to the market intending to buy the regular sourdough which is always good.

On the shelf of Ralph's market was a "Limited Edition" Maple French Toast. It sounded good and I thought to myself: "It can't be worse than the multi-grain." I also thought it might be good with cream cheese if it's already sweet.


The following morning, I experimented. I toasted both and applied cream cheese and the last of my raspberry jam from good old L'Amande Bakery, and on the other one, butter and jam. Both were very good. In as much as I love butter, the cream cheese won! It balanced the sweetness of the muffin. The raspberry jam was not that sweet so it complemented the cream cheese.


Since this is a limited edition, I plan to go back and buy a bunch to freeze for future enjoyment.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Virgie's Mango Tart

My mother sent my brother and I a box of Virgie's Mango Tart from the Philippines through the kindness of Ramon. I was so excited to get a whole box since I love mango tarts. I opened the box and found a dozen individually wrapped tarts. My first thought was, in the future it would be practical to empty the box into a ziplock to save a lot of space in a suitcase. Oh well, it was not my problem as I was just the recipient.


I unwrapped one and had a bite. My teeth could not release my bite from the tart as I bit harder and pulled it away from my mouth. It was hard and dry. I took another bite hoping to taste a burst of the mango filling just like the picture on the box of mango oozing out. Nothing oozed out. In fact, the dried up mango looked petrified. It didn't even taste like the dried mango you could get at the market. The tart tasted old and brittle. It was so bad I had to spit it out; something I rarely do!


I gave it the benefit of the doubt that maybe this was just one tart. I opened another one and yet another and they were all hard and brittle. I looked at the date and it was marked 05-20-16. I called my brother and to be fair, he did tell me that his batch was good.


If this was purchased in the United States, there would be no issue on returns or refunds. This was purchased in the Philippines so my mother will go back to the store she bought this from and tell them my story; perhaps even have them read this blog.  It will be interesting to see if they will give her another box or offer to refund her money.   I know if I were Virgie, I would try to make things right, that is if there really is a Virgie.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dressed up Brownie

Next time you want a brownie to be more than a brownie and I don't mean lacing it with marijuana......Try adding a scoop of (not vanilla) but Chocolate Malted Crunch from your nearby Rite-Aid and then pouring a little or a lot of Marshmallow in a jar.


Make sure you have a light dinner before this dessert. I guarantee, you will be very happy and so far, it is still legal!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Musso & Frank Grill

Piero, a friend and dance instructor thought it would be a great idea for all of us to get dressed in the era of the 20's, 30's or 40's on our way to see the play Bullets over Broadway at the Pantages Theater. The only appropriate restaurant to have dinner before the show was Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood. This iconic restaurant is the oldest in Hollywood. It has been there since 1919. Hollywood actors and writers like Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Elizabeth Taylor, Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Steve McQueen, F.Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck to name a few, were regulars at this establishment.


We were served their sourdough bread with lots of butter to start. Anna mentioned that she saw a picture on yelp of the garlic bread which did look good. When she asked our server he pointed to the regular sour dough on our table. She showed him the picture on her phone and he immediately knew what she was talking about....the garlic bread. We all had a piece and it was very good indeed. I tried not to eat too much as garlic loves me more that I love it.


Piero had the Romaine salad which was good but I would have preferred a Caesar with anchovies. (but it wasn't my salad). He ordered the Prime Rib with baked potato. He informed me that it was delicious. I had to take his word for it. His baked potato looked a bit sad with just the little scoop of sour cream with a dusting of chives. I later saw the menu and it did include bacon which he did not get. I guess he should have asked for it.  Several people had the Short Ribs which I was told was tender and tasted as good as it looked.


Sandi and I had the Grenadine of Beef which were 3 filet medallions with a light brown gravy topped with Bearnaise sauce which was absolutely divine but was not enough for me so I had to ask for a little bit more which they indulged. We were asked if we wanted the thick or thin fries. I imagined the thin to be too thin so I ordered the thick ones. It was good but the thin ones were perfect (pictured are the thin fries).


We were all too full but Piero wanted dessert so he ordered the Chocolate Mousse Cake to share with everyone. It was big enough to share. It was rich and sweet; all I needed was the one bite enough to end my wonderful dinner. It brought back memories of Ana's (L'Amande Bakery) unforgettable chocolate cake and mousse.


As I was reviewing the menu of Musso & Frank online, I came upon a very interesting and exciting piece of information. I found out that the Fettuccine Alfredo, something I would never order anywhere since I have had the original one in Rome.....is the same one they serve at the original Fettuccine Alfredo in Rome. The story goes: Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were on their honeymoon in Rome in 1927. They fell in love with Alfredo's fettuccine and asked for the recipe which he declined. The following day, the couple dined at Alfredo's and presented him with a golden fork and spoon and voila....they got the recipe. A little bribery helped. They got Chef Rue at Musso & Frank to make it for them and special people since they never put in on their menu. Today, the famous Fettuccine Alfredo is on their menu. This is a very good excuse to go back very soon.

Musso & Frank is at 6667 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, California.