Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Acai Cafe

My friend Sandi kept telling me to try this place. I didn't drop everything to see what they had since Acai berries are suppose to be healthy and in my book, healthy equals not good.

Since I haven't danced in 2 weeks, due to an injured toe, I have gained a couple of pounds so I decided to be good. Went to the Acai Cafe in Torrance (corner Crenshaw Blvd. and Sepulveda). I had no idea what to order. I expected smoothies. They had all sorts of fruit combination, chocolate and vanilla power which had 18g-24g of protein. I told the lady it was my first time so she gave me a sample of the mint breeze. It was so refreshing and quite edible so I asked her about the Coffee Mocha. She assured me that if I like coffee, I would like it. I ordered it not knowing what it would look like. It came in a plastic container. It had bananas and granola (more healthy stuff) on top. Then she asked if I wanted honey; the answer to which was YES of course.
The acai part was dark. In fact, when I took a spoonful, it reminded me of mud. So, bananas, blueberries, granola with honey on top of mud. Well, believe it or not, it was tasty and refreshing.

There is something for everyone; peanut butter and jelly, apple cinnamon, even vegetables!

Next time you feel like something good and not feel guilty, go visit Acai Cafe. It's like putting gasoline additives in your car to make it run better, though my husband says those things don't work. I like to think I just put a bunch of anti-oxidants in my body that I should be ok at least till the next doctor visit.-

Sunday, January 29, 2012

La Creperie Cafe

We stumbled on this Bohemian bistro and bar while walking on 2nd St.in Long Beach on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Nice place with a grand piano, chandeliers and magnum champagne bottles as light fixtures along the bar.

The menu was extensive: from escargot as appetizers, savory crepes, soups,salads, and of course dessert crepes. My eyes lit up when I saw: Crepe Suzette.
We ordered the French Riviera which had chicken breast, artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese in a sherry basil cream sauce. This was very good. The other crepe was the Parisian which was also chicken breast, fresh spinach, sweet red peppers, mozzarella in a basil and feta cream sauce. This was delicious as well and had a little bit more oomph! We were quite full but not too full to order dessert. My friend thought we should split the dessert. I reluctantly agreed.

We ordered the Crepe Suzette. I was disappointed since I was really looking forward to a great suzette. It was not bad; after all we finished it (1/2 portion). It was just not as light as I am used to and the sauce was thick and too sweet. I still remember the best crepe suzette I had in all of Los Angeles; a restaurant in Torrance called Chalet de France (no longer there). They made the best crepe suzette by your table with butter, fresh orange, grand marnier, cognac and flambeed as a final touch.
Ahh, those were the days...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Original Pancake House

I was not aware that this pancake house has been around as long as I have! It was born in Portland Oregon in 1953. For the people who have been at this establishment which is located all over the states and have only ordered the typical breakfast of pancakes, bacon & eggs, or oatmeal (why not just stay home and cook your own), it is time to WAKE UP!

The best thing you can order is the Dutch Baby which they are known for. It is an air-filled wonder. Don't get shocked with the size of it since most of it is air, finishing it is quite doable. To enjoy it fully, you will have to eat it the way I do. Make sure you order extra lemon and powdered sugar. Tell them to skip the butter instead and just give you the extra stuff. When it comes, squeeze a lot of lemon on 1/4 of the pancake including the puffy sides. Then sprinkle a lot of powdered sugar which forms a syrup. Then and only then can you take your first bite.....

The other item that they are known for is the Apple Pancake; it is a huge pancake with lots of sauteed apples cooked in sugar and cinnamon. If you like apples, you will love it..this can be shared as it is too sweet to devour yourself.

The German potato pancakes are also very good. It is paper thin and is served with sour cream and apple sauce. I prefer the apple sauce. You can also order 1/2 order of this and order a single Continental crepe which is rolled in sour cream with triple sec and is served with an orange marmalade syrup..Yum...the sweetness of this and flavor of the potato pancakes are a perfect match.

So next time you want something different, good and you are not in a hurry since the Dutch baby and apple pancake takes 20 minutes to make, stop by this old restaurant.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Umami Burgers

Uuuhh mommy! These burgers are grrreat! Forget those other burger joints. If you haven't had the original umami burger and you're not lucky enough to be in close proximity to Sta. Monica, Los Feliz, or Hermosa Beach (just opened),La Brea, Cahuenga and San Francisco, then I suggest you get your loved ones together and schedule an excursion to the closest location ASAP.

These burgers are all about quality, not quantity. They are unlike the humongous burgers we are all used to. They have a variety of burgers; BUT I tell you..you have to try the UMAMI burger which has shitake mushrooms,carmelized onions, roasted tomato,parmesan crisp(wonderful),and their homemade umami ketchup. What's a burger without fries? Don't order the regular thin fries which is boring. Order both, sweet potato fries and the smushed potatoes which are double fried. To eat your potatoes, I suggest combining the roasted garlic aioli sauce with ketchup....try it...you'll like it!

Cafe Dulce- Little Tokyo

My niece and her husband took us last night to this famous cafe in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.
I felt like a little girl in a candy store. My eyes were going all over the place; didn't know what to try. I really wanted to try them all but knew this was not feasible. So we ordered a variety of pastries and shared them. There were 5 of us, so I thought we should at least order a minimum of 5. Then I saw the bacon donut which I have never had and have always wanted to try. It was very good as expected. How can it not..its a donut, a bit sweet with bacon. If anyone thinks that is too weird, think about eating your pancakes and ordering a side of bacon. Same thing and more convenient as it is All In ONE!

The sweet potato chestnut roti with cream cheese and ground chestnuts were really good but my favorite was the raspberry tiramisu with mascarpone. This was light and not too sweet with the right amount of raspberry puree, in other words...perfect. When we were all done I went back in to browse and discovered these long pastry which looked like dough drenched in flour. It intrigued me so I bought a bag (4 in a bag). I opened it and we all had a piece. We were all surprised and delighted by this new discovery. They were called creamy cloud sticks and was stuffed with mascarpone butter cream, not much, but just enough to give it that delicate flavor.

Before we left, my niece insisted I buy some of the rolls for breakfast which she has had before and just raved about it. I thought, how can anyone get so excited about rolls? I bought the spirulina and the tapioca rolls. The spirulina didn't even look good, it looked like old bread when it starts getting moldy. You know the saying "Don't judge the book by its cover"..... boy did I misjudge! I heated this roll for breakfast and put some butter and jam...WOW! it was incredible! I called James the son of the owner who by the way was the best host to ask him what the hell was in that bread? Forgive the ignorance, but spirulina is a blue green algae that is pure protein with vitamin A,E, and potassium. Who knew healthy could be that good? I didn't! The tapioca roll had wheat flour, black sesame seeds, walnuts, and probably a dozen more healthy stuff and it was equally good.

Don't miss this little gem next time you are at Little Tokyo and say hello to James who is the nicest guy...he makes you feel like his house guest instead of just a customer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Frascati Ristorante & Bar

This restaurant started in Redondo Beach, Ca., closed its doors and moved to Rolling Hills Estates. Frascati is located in the one and only mall of Rolling Hills Estates. Restaurants have come and gone but Frascati has been open for 5 years and I pray it will stay open for many more years. This italian restaurant is consistently good. The menu is simple; no fancy schmancy food; what you read on the menu is what you get with a twist.

We came for lunch and celebrated a birthday. We started with the Burrata alla Caprese. This is where I was first introduced to burrata years ago. It was love at first taste. That creamy mozzarella is so good. Once you have it, you will never order regular mozzarella ever again.
We ordered the Linguine alle Vongole Veraci with manila clams,garlic,parsley with a white wine sauce. I am not fond of clams but my friend assured me that it was delicious. Two of us decided on the Spaghettini alla bolognese. This was a generous portion. We asked for parmesan cheese and our very attentive waiter, Abby came and started grating fresh parmesan on our pasta. I asked him if you could grate some more in a bowl and just leave it on our table. He happily obliged us.

When we were done with our lunch, we of course had to check out the dessert menu. It was hard not to order the tiramisu since I have had this before and it seemed like a nice ending to a meal since it is very light; not in calories but at least on looks!
Birthday boy ordered the gelato affogato al caffe. Vanilla ice cream w/lady fingers and espresso. I had a spoonful of this and it too was a nice refreshing ending.

The pizzas are worth ordering as they are thin crust and baked in that wood burning oven. In the past, I have had the pasta with salmon which was also very good. Once, the chef and owner, Enrico Glaudo, had a special; Chocolate pasta. He does not have this on the menu as most people probably are not adventurous. I enjoyed that dish that when I asked Enrico for it.. he promised to make it if I call in advance.

Chef Glaudo has an impressive background. You may google him to get more information.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I purchased a good deal at Travelzoo for dinner for 2 which included a 3 course menu with a glass of wine.

I have been to this restaurant in Palos Verdes many times in the past and have always gotten very good food as well as service so I was excited to go back.
Our waiter came and gave us the special menu for the Travelzoo deal. This included a cheese & charcuterie board, a salad, choice of entree and dessert, coffee or tea.
We had a choice of wine not to exceed $15/glass. In the meantime, we overheard the waitress next to ours explaining that they could order a bottle and just paying for the difference. Between the 2 of us, it was $30.00 ($15/glass). Our waiter didn't offer to explain this to us. We went ahead and ordered 1/2 bottle of bordeaux.

We both enjoyed the cheese & charcuterie which consisted of prosciutto, salami, goat cheese,ground mustard and wonderful bread. We also decided to order the roasted young beet salad which had dried cranberries, hazelnuts, goat cheese, baby asparagus and and orange vinaigrette. This not only looked pretty but was quite good.
For our entree, we thought we would be smart and order different entrees so we could split both. So we had the crispy shelton farms' chicken with black rice, barley and beet greens, this was our high protein healthy entree, by healthy I don't mean not good, in fact it was crispy and juicy. The other one was the less healthy..paccheri bolognese, with homemade ricotta and english peas. This was perfect, it hardly needed parmesan cheese.

For dessert we decided not to try the seasonal sorbets; instead ordered the caramel pudding with fleur de sel and vanilla wafers. Anytime I see salt and caramel or salt and chocolate, other desserts don't have a chance. It was as expected, quite edible but not outstanding.

Our waiter came maybe once to check on us, I had to refill our glasses with wine the whole time. Again you might think "diva" she can't pour her own wine...yes, I am spoiled! For a fine dining restaurant, I expect better service than IHOP.

After our dessert, our waiter came and asked if we wanted anything else. We couldn't eat anything else so I asked for our bill. He never offered us coffee or tea which I later found out was included in our deal.

I will still give this restaurant another chance since I have had one of the best rib eye and an array of wonderful desserts(made with olive oil, toffee puddings and many more) in the past.

Mar'sel is located at the beautiful Terranea Resort. You see the sunset from almost any table (not the sun, but the beautiful colors of a sunset); you can even schedule your dinner according to the moon rise. They have a schedule on their website on the dates for the next moon rise.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Arrivederci Drago

My friend Cindy and I decided to try Drago on Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica before they close for good at the end of January 2012. Celestino Drago decided not to renew his lease but will most likely open up sometime, somewhere?.. Not to worry, you can visit his other restaurants. (Just google Drago)

On the house, they served us 2 pieces of croquettes made with rice, peas and cheese then breaded and deep fried. They were delicious though I would have added more salt or used sharper cheese. Cindy ordered the Insalata di Barbabietole e Burrata. Burrata with beets, arugula, pistachio, fried shallots and white balsamic dressing. It was very good. I chose the Insalata Cesare which is the Caesar salad made w/baby romaine,anchovy dressing, shaved parmesan and crostini. Loved this salad, the anchovy dressing was wonderful.

For our entree, we had the Risotto alla Barbabietola; red beets, shaved candy striped beets and puffed risotto; beautiful, colorful and delicious. The other entree was the Tagliolini Bianci e Neri con Capesante; black and white tagliolini w/bay scallops. Wonderful dish cooked to perfection.

We were both full since we had their selection of breads prior to our meal. When the waiter came to ask if we wanted to see the dessert menu, I blurted out a "YES" before he could finish the question. We ordered 2 desserts to split in case one was not so good, we could equally share the misfortune. The Crostata al Coccolato was a chocolate tart with dates and brown sugar gelato. If you like chocolate tarts, you will like this dessert and enjoy the brown sugar gelato. The other dessert was the winner. The Mele Carmmelate. Apples(fresh slices and baked), cinnamon pastry cream and brown sugar gelato. The cinnamon pastry looked like a fried tofu since this was breaded and deep fried. It was light as cotton and when you cut it w/your fork, a brownish liquid oozes out. The liquid was made out of sugar, cinnamon, cream, butter and I believe they freeze this before they roll it on panko and deep fry it.

If you will be in the west side before the end of the month, (even if you are not from the area- we drove 25 miles) try to get a reservation; you'll be glad you did.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Simple,No Fuss-Salmon

I normally don't share recipes only because I'm not a great cook but the salmon I made tonight was a quite good and truly simple to make. All I did was marinate the salmon in lots of lemon, salt and pepper. Just before broiling I applied a light coat of Japanese mayonnaise which is the secret. If you've never had it..you haven't had real mayo! You can buy this at most Japanese markets. Here's to a healthy meal!

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Taste Awards

I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Taste Awards which is an award show of mostly food, fashion and home life style. The event was held at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Jan. 12, 2012. I was accompanied by my brother who was my guide, literally like my seeing eye dog since I am totally uneducated when it comes to television shows about cooking. I know the famous chefs that have been around for a long time but am not familiar with the newborns so to speak. You see, I love to eat but I do not necessarily like to watch cooking shows since I can't taste anything they cook. It's like torture!

My brother introduced me to Nyesha Arrington who is the executive chef at "Wilshire" in Santa Monica. Gary has frequented and raved about Wilshire since Nyesha has taken over. I have not yet been there but plan to do so in the near future.

After the awards, there was an a little reception with some excellent selection of wines, cabernet from Raymond Vineyards R&B Cellars, and Peju Vineyard. They had slices of wonderful duck, beet salad, cheeses, fuku burger (which was delicious) and beautiful chocolates (Ginger w/sea salt, Lavander).

After we sampled everything there was to sample, it was time to leave. It was a very interesting evening.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On a Diet...Have a break!

Everyone deserves a break. If you happen to be at the supermarket and you can't decide what to get for dessert, head on over the freezer section where they have all sorts of ice cream and pick up a box of Magnum. They have 4 different kinds including white chocolate but the best one is the Double Caramel. Inside the ice cream bar on a stick is vanilla bean ice cream and a layer of gooey caramel dipped in Belgian milk chocolate (though it taste more like dark chocolate). This is so unbelievably good that I guarantee it will satisfy your sweet craving. Caution: Do not look at the nutrition facts on the back of the box. All you need to know is there is 1 gram of fiber and you know that fiber is good for you.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Montmartre Bakery

There is a Japanese-French bakery at the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance that has been there for over a year. I notice more and more that my car goes on the "auto pilot" mode and before I know it, I am there buying the ham and cheese croissant with cream cheese for lunch, or experimenting on the different pastries that are very good. They are not too sweet therefore you do not get sick of it and again, before you know what hit you, you will find yourself at Montmartre.

They also have a variety of bread; raisin, milk, marble (these are all delicious lightly toasted with butter).

The pasty chef and owner of this bakery is Tom Fujitaka. You often see him in the back busy working on his creations. He also owns Mammoth Bakery which is inside Marukai in Torrance. FYI, pastries are not sold at that store, just bread. Tom worked in New York and prior to that he worked at a gourmet bakery at Le Bon Marche in Paris.

If you are a tiramisu fan, you will love his as you can really taste the espresso in it. The millefeuille,one of my favorites,is light and flaky with a creamy filling. The choco-banana mini pie has a chocolate gnache in the bottom with a nice mousse topped w/ strawberry and blueberry garnished w/ white chocolate.

This afternoon on my way home, I found myself there again....there was something I never saw...something new...it was called orange crepe. Of course I had to buy a few.
My mission was to see if it tasted as good as it looked. Guess what? It did indeed!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Very First Food Truck

They say: "You never forget your first kiss" I know I'll never forget my first food truck experience. My foodie friend Jodie told me about the food truck being on 7th St. in San Pedro, CA. the first Thursday of each month. She had a head start last month and insisted I go with her this month; start the new year right.

She was absolutely right about the Lobsta Truck. Had the lobster roll. The pictures I have do not do any justice as they were taken in the dark with my not so smart phone. The sandwich was served on what looked like a hot dog bun but smaller and lighter. The bun had the consistency of a brioche. It was overstuffed with big chunks of lobster. You have a choice of mayo or butter. I asked for both of course. One can easily eat 2 of these but we restrained ourselves since there were more trucks to investigate.

Our next truck was the Tornado Potato. We shared a tornado potato which looked quite interesting served on a skewer. They had all sorts of flavors; Jodie decided on the aioli parmesan w/ garlic. Then we thought we should try the We Got Balls Truck. We shared (2 baby sandwiches) the IncrediBalls which were meatballs made w/ground kobe beef with bacon,gruyere cheese, arugula,garlic aioli on a toasted miniature brioche.

They had a chocolate chip cookie truck but it didn't look exciting so we decided to end our experience on a good note. FYI, there were stores along the street selling jewelry, clothing and some art galleries...can't tell you much about that since our only goal was to experience the Trucks...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hungry Shopping at South Coast?

There are a lot of restaurants at the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. There's a Lawry's Carvery if you want good prime rib and can't get to the one in Beverly Hills then this will suffice. Their menu is limited; more towards sandwiches.

Then there's Quattro Caffe which has been there for almost 20 years! There is something to be said for a restaurant to survive that long. They have great salads, pizza (thin crust)and their pasta is always served al dente.

Today, after a few hours of shopping, hunger called out loud! We went in Quattro Caffe.
Our waiter was so familiar that I asked him how long he has been there and he said 20 years. We proceeded to order. My son had the Penne Al Salmone which was penne with Scottish salmon (who cares if it is Scottish,American,Russian,German..as long as it is fresh and delicious) cooked in a light tomato cream sauce garnished with arugula. It was indeed delicious.

I had the fettuccine alla Pescatora with sauteed shrimps and scallops, cooked to perfection in a fresh tomato herb sauce with egg fettuccine. I like my pasta with a lot of parmigiano cheese. When Pasqual our waiter asked me if I wanted cheese, I asked him to get a stool so he can be comfortable while grating the cheese; I also informed him that he might have to come back. Sure enough, after 2 minutes, he did return with a fresh block of parmigiano which got me through the rest of the fettuccine.

On the way to the parking lot, we had to make one more stop at Vie de France, another establishment that has been there forever. They have a lot of great bread, croissants, sandwiches etc. but what keeps us going back is their cinnamon rolls. They are crusty yet soft with a lot of cinnamon. No nuts, no raisins, just plain old no nonsense but truly delicious cinnamon rolls. Their almond croissant is also excellent with a bit of dark chocolate and powdered sugar on top. If you are an almond or marzipan fan, you will not be disappointed.

So, when you shop at South Coast Plaza, don't forget to bring your big appetite.