Monday, December 31, 2012

Patina

It has been many years since I have been to Patina. The current one located just outside the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.  I had tickets to see "Salute to Vienna" for my husband and myself and we were to have dinner at Patina after the matinee.  Since he had just had surgery, the Dr. thought it was not a good idea to go, so I ended up going with Sujata and celebrated her birthday instead.



We were very well taken care of from beginning to end.  Perry, our server was very polite, professional and knew his business.  It's funny  how he asked if we would like to hear the description of each dish or if we'd rather he skip it so we can get on our way to devouring our food.  For amuse bouche, they served us lentil soup. It was very good; smooth yet you could taste the lentils which was not overpowered by cream or any other flavor.



For our appetizer, we ordered the Fall Vegetable Salad which consisted of root vegetables and poached pears in golden balsamic. These vegetables tasted so fresh and that is because the vegetables were REALLY fresh.  They were also sliced very thin like shaves of Parmesan. As you all know, I don't get excited over salads too often but last night, I felt like a rabbit in heaven.



Sujata, my vegetarian friend was about to order the Cod till Perry explained to her that they are not fully cooked.  We appreciated the information as she didn't want fish that was not cooked all the way.  She would have been disappointed if she was not informed so she really appreciated the information. I could imagine her staring at it and it would not have been an enjoyable dinner. So, she ended up ordering an appetizer which they made into an entree. The Seasonal Glazed Vegetable Mosaic with Jus de cuisson, lemon oil.  That was an architectural work of art. It truly was a mosaic. According to her it was wonderful. Perry explained to us that the vegetables were individually cooked.



I decided on the Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Sunchokes, Treviso and Smoked Citrus Emulsion.  It was the best lobster I ever had. The softness and tenderness of it reminded me of cotton candy.  I have had very good poached lobster before in expensive restaurants but this one was truly in it's own league. I very easily could have eaten 2 of those! Oh well,  its quality not quantity.



For dessert, Sujata ordered the Butternut Squash with coffee ice cream; for the true vegetarian what else could you ask for?



I ordered the Pineapple Dessert which was fresh pineapple with Crispy Meringue and
an unusual  green ice cream.....no, not green tea which I dislike; it was Cilantro. On the side was a soy sesame reduction.  The combination of flavors worked very well.  It was another nice surprise.



At the end, Perry brought another surprise for the birthday girl. A couple of wonderful macarons.  On our way out I spoke with Mr. Kevin Welby, the general manager. I told him how very pleased we were with the food and service.  Everything came together, unlike our experience not too long ago with  Alaine Ducasse's restaurant, Mix, wherein the food was fabulous but the servers were "robotic" and didn't have any passion which took away from our dining experience.

The next time you crave quality food and want to experience the fine art of dining, visit Patina at 141 S Grand Avenue in Los Angeles and be sure to say hello to Mr. Welby (as in Marcus- for those of you old enough to remember good old Dr. Welby)


Friday, December 28, 2012

Cafeteria at Little Company of Mary Hospital

Unfortunately, my husband had to have surgery again at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, California.  Thank God, he is is doing well and should be discharged tomorrow. The good news is the food. I previously blogged about their food.  See blog: http://solittlethyme.blogspot.com/2012/09/little-company-of-mary-hospital.html

I am happy to report they haven't lost their touch.  The soft diet for lunch was a seafood bisque, turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetables. My husband's dinner tonight looked like something you would get from a nice restaurant.  He had some vegetable soup with meatballs, beef stroganoff with scalloped potatoes and carrots. Dessert was a vanilla cake with orange cream in between the 2 layers. I had to have a bite of the the beef stroganoff and the potatoes; they were delicious.



For lunch, I went to the Cafeteria and had the Salmon which looked very good together with the Dill Mashed Potatoes. I also had the mixed vegetables. I was proud of myself  for ordering such a healthy meal.  This was another time that healthy was unbelievably delicious.  It tasted as good as it looked. The salmon was not dry; it was moist and the delicate light cream sauce was perfect on it.



This meal cost less than $6.00!  Where can you get such a deal? You can get the food "to go". Next time you crave a home cooked meal and don't want to spend the money, think hospital; Little Company of Mary at 4101 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cornish Game Hens

I used to cook Cornish Game Hens a lot 25 years ago. My husband loved them and suggested I make it for Christmas dinner. Why not? Not all markets sell them but finally found some at Vons Market. I bought 6 of these cute little hens for Christmas dinner.

 


I cooked them the way I used to which was stuffing them with red cabbage with apples and mushrooms.  I rubbed the skin with sesame oil and seasoned them with salt & pepper and for good measure some butter just before baking them and a some soy sauce at the end. For side dishes, I made some mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts mixed with carrots and shallots topped with bacon.



I have never cooked 6 hens in one time, so the cooking took a lot longer. The ones in the middle of the pack didn't cook all the way.  Luckily, only the leg by the bones were slightly pink.  The hens were not bad but they were not as good as I remembered. The stuffing was very good.

This was too much trouble for what it was worth so I bid these hens Adieu....never again.  I was not sure to this point what a game hens were, in fact I asked my guests if they knew....were they adult dwarf hens, were they premature hens, or were they a different species?  The answer may shock you. Game hens are not necessarily hens, they could be male or female plus they are not game birds.  They are a type of domestic chicken and after 4-6 weeks  when they weigh not more than 2 lbs. they are slaughtered.

Dessert was much better and trouble free. I had ordered the Pistachio Pie from L'Amande Bakery. All I did was cut that flaky, puffy baby with a pizza cutter and served them with vanilla ice cream. No complaints there.



All in all despite the not so good premie hens, we still managed to have a good time.



Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night.....



Monday, December 24, 2012

New York Deli

This Delicatessen has been in the city of Torrance since 1985.  There is also one in Pasadena.  I am not much of a "deli" person but a few days ago, my friend thought it would be nice to visit this deli.  I have never eaten there although I have ordered their Matzo Ball Soup to go when I was sick and remember it being so good. I recently got the same soup for a friend when she was sick and she too enjoyed it.

My friend ordered the Matzo Ball Soup for her dinner and I decided to go big time and order the New Yorker Sandwich which was hot corned beef, hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and homemade Russian dressing. We decided to split an order of Potato Pancakes as an appetizer. The pancakes were not the thin kind but fat ones which were served with sour cream and apple sauce. The sour cream didn't do anything for us. The apple sauce was a much better companion although the apples sauce itself was bland; sort of like baby food. I immediately thought of the applesauce that Mertz and Amy make and imagined what it could do to these pancakes!



Somehow, we both thought the Matzo Ball Soup was not as good as when we were sick. It seemed to lack flavor. I highly recommend it for a cold but when you're healthy and your taste buds are hyperactive, I would pass and order something else.



When the server brought the New Yorker Sandwich, I literally screamed.  It was unbelievable.  The humongous sandwich shocked me and would have shocked anyone else. I tried to figure out how to eat it....I was used to the Six Dollar burgers at Carl's Jr. and had no problem biting into it.  The only way was to disassemble everything and use my fork and knife. I ended up just eating the meat which was delicious and discarding the bread. Needless to say, I was only able to eat half.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Croque Madame

I have had the Croque Monsieur numerous times at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance. I have never had the Croque Madame which is the same thing as Croque Monsieur but with the addition of a sunny side up egg on top.



I was not sure how the egg would go with Madame Croque but alas.....it was a perfect combination and quite the comfort food. What an amazing breakfast this is or lunch if you prefer.  The Blackforest ham with Gruyere cheese is made on on pan de mie (thick soft and fluffy) bread then put under their broiler so the cheese gets all melted and even better if left a bit longer to burn.  It is then topped with the fried egg. This is served with a salad.  What a healthy meal and a great way to start the day. You get your protein from the egg and cheese and all the good things that a salad brings.



Just before you go off to start your day, take a look at the numerous tarts which should complete your maximum calorie intake for the day. Calories only count if you actually consume the tarts.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Specific Pacific Foods

I previously blogged about Mark, owner of Specific Pacific.  See my last blog on the Beef Tournado: http://solittlethyme.blogspot.com/2012/11/beef-tournado.html

I had to do a quickie dinner for my favorite niece Aimee and her husband Elliot the other night.  I did an inventory of products I had in our garage freezer and found some Chicken Brie Anna. These are boneless, skinless chicken breast filled with  sweet, juicy apples and tangy cranberries in a creamy blend of Cheddar, Brie and Mozzarella cheeses. The nice thing about this dish is you can bake it frozen so it is pretty much a no-brainer.  All I had to do was to make some mashed potatoes and roast some vegetables with maple syrup (made it on Thanksgiving) but I thought I should make a fresh batch, and voila....dinner for 4.



With the holidays being hectic, try giving Mark a call. He was voted "Best in L.A." by Los Angeles Magazine. He's been featured on A.M. Los Angeles, KABC Channel 7 and CBS Evening News and believe it or not: all the attention and exposure has not gone to his head (yet). He is still a nice guy. All his products are 100% satisfaction guaranteed. The best part is HE DELIVERS FOR FREE.....(800) 831-FOOD.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Lasagna Dinner

It was time to make my famous lasagna for 2012.  I make it no more than once a year as it takes a lot of time. Invited Ana and Gonz who never had it, my brother Gary, old friend Cindy and Sandi.



For hors d' oeuvres, I baked an artichoke heart dip made with Japanese mayonnaise and lots of Parmesan. Also served Vermont cheddar cheese with crackers and grapes. My brother was nice enough to share his Cristal Champagne and Caviar which he received as a present. Caviar with Creme Fraiche with the best champagne.....what else can you ask for?




I decided not to have a green salad but instead, I served burrata (mozzarella with cream) with sweet baby tomatoes with lemon olive oil, pomegranate balsamic vinegar and some bacon. It didn't look pretty but everyone seemed to like it. Then I served a fresh mushroom salad made with just olive oil, lemon juice, green onions and shaved Parmesan. Sandi who does not like raw mushrooms was brave enough to try a bit. She ended up liking it....3 cheers for Sandi.



The lasagna was perfect according to my brother Gary. He complained the last time I served it; he said it was too salty.  This time, I went light on the Parmesan; some people are just wusses!  It was good if I may say so myself which I served with bread from L'Amande bakery and salted butter from France.



I forgot to take a picture of the dessert.  It was Cherries Jubilee Flambe with Brandy of course. It was a nice semi-light dessert with vanilla ice cream from Handel's.

I heard from everyone the following day which was a good sign.....no one got sick.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels

This cute little box holds 4 good size dark chocolate sea salt caramels. The dark chocolate is pretty good especially with the big chunks of salt unlike a lot of other salted caramels where they only have a few small specks of salt.




This is almost perfect except for the caramel.  It ain't bad; it's just a tad too sweet for my taste.  It is a good stocking stuffer during the holidays as you can flip the card in front as the other side becomes a label with: To: and From:  It's a good box to share with 3 other friends. So, until I find "the perfect" dark chocolate sea salt caramels......these will do.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jean Philippe

Jean Philippe is the executive pastry chef of Jean Philippe located at the Aria & Bellagio Hotels is Las Vegas Nevada. 

Visit the largest chocolate fountain in the world; verified by the Guiness World Records.  The chocolate fountain cascades from ceiling to floor.  The funny part is we didn't notice the ceiling part as when we saw the chocolate flowing, we just got too excited as our eyes zeroed in the chocolate.  It was the following day that we realized what we missed the first time.



The pastry shop has all sorts of his signature chocolates (too pretty to eat), cakes, pastries, candies, coffee, tea and various gift items. You will have to just see and eat for yourselves.  We didn't want to just eat sweets so Sandi and I shared a delicious Vegetable Quiche, Cheese Danish and Cinnamon Roll. We both thought it would have been wonderful if the Danish and the Cinnamon Roll were heated so as to get the crunchy and soft texture plus the icing on the cinnamon roll would have been best if it had melted a bit. There were too many things to try and not enough time.




Just outside Jean Philippe's store at the Aria, there is another impressive dragon sculpture made of chocolate.  This is one dragon I would not mind meeting or eating anytime!


FYI:  In 1997, Jean Philippe had the title of "Meilleur Ouvier de France" which translates to "Best Pastry Chef in France."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mix

I have been dying to try this restaurant of Alain Ducasse for a long time.  Mix is located at The Hotel of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The only way to go was to make a reservation and schedule a trip; so this is what we did.

We arrived early and was able to walk by the bar and admire the breathtaking view of the strip.  We were the first customers. The decor and ambiance was equally breathtaking as the view.  Everything was white and what looked like see through balls hanging all over were bubbles of Murano glass. The only color you see are the bright red glasses all over the tables. They had booths that looked like pods from a space ship. We were escorted to a small table very close to other tables; in other words, a lousy spot.  I asked if we could have the pod and our server agreed.  The pictures I took do not do justice as it was dark but I am including them so you get the (dark) picture.



We both decided to go for the second Tasting Menu which had more courses. We had to "go for it", after all this is why we came to Las Vegas.  Another server came to deliver the complimentary amuse bouche. I don't know what country he was from but he rattled everything so fast we hardly understood what he said but between Sandi and I, we figured it was a Lobster Potato Vicchyssoise.....hhmmmm...deelicious!


We got excited as this was a nice preview of things to come.  The first course came along which was Gnocchi which were tender, with pumpkin cooked 2 ways. It had wild mushrooms and crispy bacon. So far so good!

The second course was Roasted Maine Lobster "Au Curry" served with coconut basmati rice. Oh, just imagine big chunks of juicy lobster and having it with the creamy rice cooked in coconut milk. I dislike (hate) coconut but anything in coconut milk is another story. We could have eaten that as a main entree but a much bigger serving.



The third course was the Filet Mignon Rossini with Foie Gras and Black Truffle. Remember, we were in Nevada where they can still serve Foie Gras unlike California.
Believe it or not we were almost too full to eat the filet; this was served with a side of "fork crushed" mashed potatoes which I'm sure was made of lots of butter and whipping cream.  We forced ourselves to consume most of it.

 

As we were waiting for the dessert, another server came to present a "pre-dessert". This was warm coconut foam milk with rum.  In the bottom of the martini glass was passion fruit & mango syrup.  We absolutely loved this dessert. It was the winner of the evening. The medley of flavors just came together like pieces in a puzzle.


Our final dish was their famous Baba A L'Armagnac, Monte Carlo style. Essentially, you get 2 slices each of what looked like pound cake and you get to pour your own almagnac which was strong enough to grow hair on one's chest. This was served with whipped cream. We both could not finish this dessert as we were both really full to capacity. When they took the plates away, we just relaxed and waited for our bill.
Meanwhile, another server came to deliver yet another "post dessert", Warm Madeleines with a chocolate dipping sauce.. By this time we just went through the motions like one would when invited to someone's home for dinner and you just can't say "No".



Although the food was very good, we were not quite happy with the service. Our lady server was nice and explained the menu to us in the beginning but after the brief encounter, we pretty much didn't see her. She did pop up once or twice in the 2 hours we were there to ask if everything was alright but somehow we got the impression she didn't care. It was almost robotic. Different servers brought the food and recited what they memorized as fast as they could....I had to ask some of them to repeat what they just said. It was like they were all in the show "Survivor" and they were participating in a relay game.

In a restaurant such as Mix, food and ambiance is not all that matters. Service is a very important aspect. They need to pick their servers carefully. If I were Mrs. Ducasse, I would have fired a bunch of them.