Monday, February 27, 2012

Banana Delight

This could very well been called Lewis's delight. My nephew Lewis lives in Singapore where they have a slew of wonderful bakeries; patisseries. It was really my sister-in-law, Grace's birthday but they made Lewis believe it was his birthday AGAIN!

I had a few of the wonderful tarts when I was there a year ago. This place is called Fruit Paradise and specializes in fruit tarts like grapefruit orange tart, chocolate mint tart (o.k. chocolate isn't a fruit) strawberry tiramisu, blueberry tart. Check out their website

The next time you visit Singapore, make sure you visit one of their 5 locations. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Menu for Ash Wednesday

For all you Catholics, you know Ash Wednesday is a day of "no meat" and fasting. Fasting means that the 2 other meals should be less than the main meal.
So, I had to plan to eat less for breakfast and lunch. Started out with a small roll for breakfast. For lunch I brought a banana to my dance class which I planned to eat in between classes. My friend Konnee brought a cake for another friends birthday.
I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings so I indulged in a small piece.

Dinner came along; I decided to make an Orzo dish called "Truffle Heaven". It had asparagus, cream, truffle butter, parmesan and pecorino cheese, garlic. It turned out quite good. Served some salad with it.

The meal was not complete without dessert. When I went to the market earlier, I looked for something light. As I passed by the frozen desserts, my eyes zeroed in on the "sea salt caramel truffle ice cream". It looked too good not to try..funny, it landed in my cart while I was still debating.

It was a good decision. The ice cream not only had swirls of caramel but it had big square chunks of chocolate chips and when you bit on it, out came more gooey salted caramel! On the kitchen counter was a bottle of Ghiradelli chocolate sauce that called out to again, I indulged.

Ash Wednesday isn't that bad. Oh, I better get the banana out of my purse.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Standing Room-Part 2

When I went to The Standing Room the other day (See previous blog) I had ordered the crispy soft shell crab which I loved. I also ordered the braised short rib sandwich for my son for his dinner. As you may recall, my hairdresser raved about it.

My son did not come home that evening and was informed that he won't be home till tomorrow morning. I decided to consume his dinner tonight. I lightly toasted the pan demie roll, heated the short ribs which was in a separate styrofoam, and the carmelized onions. Then I cut the meat in pieces which just fell apart as it was truly tender and proceeded to lay it on the bun. I further poured the generous portion of the au jus on the meat and bread. I took my first! it took me 2 minutes to consume the whole thing! It was wonderful....ooohhh la lahhhh. (unlike the previous restaurant Oh la la)

The Standing Room

This is an unusual place to get something good to eat. It's an itsty bitsy place inside a liquor store in Redondo Beach in the corner of Catalina and Diamond. My hairdresser told me to just Go! She raved about the braised short ribs on a bun with carmelized onions. Right after my hair cut; I went!

They had all sorts of sandwiches and burgers; all looked appetizing. I was about to order the short ribs when the Crisped Chopped Soft Shell Crab caught my eye. While waiting for my order, I studied the menu board and learned about the truffle parmesan. Obviously, I had to order that. There was no place to eat unless I wanted to eat it in my car or go to the beach which was right there. I decided to eat it at home. I prayed that no cops would be around as I dashed home hoping the sandwich would still be warm.

When I opened the box, I saw this interesting and exciting "thing". A soft pan demie roll with crunchy soft shell crab with a bunch of tiny balls. The sauce they had was so delicious and spicy. This was the best sandwich I've had in a loooong time. I usually don't consider sandwiches real food until yesterday. I immediately called them up and spoke with the owner to ask what was in that sandwich. The tiny balls were called bubu arare which are crispy rice crackers; the secret to the wonderful flavor was their thai crab mayo! The truffle fries were also very good though I prefer my fries not too crispy to be able to really savor the potato.

It would be a good idea to call in your order so you don't have to stand too long, but for first timers.....the stand is worth the wait!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oh la la Bistro & Wine Bar

This location in Redondo Beach, California has housed a few good restaurants, from french to italian and now back to french. I had high hopes for this cute bistro/wine bar.

Ambiance was good; parking was bad as always since it is a tiny space and no room to turn and you have to back up into the street. Then again, one can always park across the street on the Walgreens parking lot and buy a pack of gum so you can say you were a customer!

My friend and I decided to order the Beef Bourguigon and the Scallops with champagne sauce. We were disappointed as the beef bourguignon was not any better than my friend's when she cooked it (Julia Child's recipe). In fact, the beef was not as tender. We expected it to be very good since this is a french specialty, therefore should be special. The scallops were cooked to perfection BUT, were tasteless and had hardly any flavor.

The only saving grace was the dessert; the creme brulee was the best we ever had since it was burnt. (most people don't like that) The crunchy top went well with the the rest as it was very light and not sweet. Most creme brulees are too heavy or too sweet.

Unfortunately, one cannot live on creme brulee alone. I took a picture of it but forgot to save it, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gaetano's Restaurant

Here's a neighborhood gem that's been in the same shopping center for many years in Torrance, California. This is a family run restaurant which is definetly the secret of their success.

We decided to try their Valentine's special menu and we were not disappointed. The antipasti was your typical Italian burrata, eggplant and heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. It was good to start out the evening healthy. Then came the primi which was the Pappardelle con Funghi. For those that do not have a doctorate on the different pastas, pappardelle is the the flat wide pasta. This was so delicious with wild mushrooms, pancetta and the caremlized onions which added the right amount of sweetness to the parmesan sauce. Believe it or not, I did not add any parmesan; thats how perfect this dish was!

For our secondi, we both had the Chianti Short Ribs which was very good with the roasted potatoes and garlic sauteed broccolini.

The dessert was Torta al Cioccolato which is a moist chocolate cake but was more of a souffle served with vanilla cream sauce.

I have been at this restaurant numerous times over the years. They have a ladies night, on Mondays when you can get small plates and discounted wines. You'll be surprised to see a bunch of men as well as this is a really a bargain. On Tuesdays, they have family night that serves 4 courses and feeds 4 people for $45..Great deal!

If and when you go to Gaetanos, you have to order my very favorite deep fried artichoke hearts... they are to die for! Nothing else like it and I have tried them in different restaurants before.

So...buon appetito!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Raya at the Ritz

If romance is in your mind then you have to plan on visiting this great restaurant in the beautiful Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach, California.

My friend and I had the pleasure of dining at Raya in August of 2011. They were having their special summer menu. We had several courses all of which were excellent. Add to that the sunset view; one will likely make a proposition of marriage with this kind of ambiance!

We started out with swordfish tacos w/ wonton and mango salsa. Then came the pulled jidori chicken salad w/candied pecans, mandarin,cabbage with crispy wontons. So far so good..we kept thinking that the next course could not be that good. The tuna salad w/mixed greens with a lemon wasabi dressing was quite refreshing, followed by the tempura asparagus salad. The mussels which I am usually not fond of made me a fan. This was cooked in coconut milk and lobster broth. The last dish was the beef huarache w/carmelized onions and black beans with manchego cheese and chile toreado.

For dessert, we had a variety of heaven...I can't wait to return and see what Chef Gerlach has in store for us.

What a wonderful meal in a most romantic setting. I just wish I was with Richard Gere instead of my girlfriend.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Super Easy Chicken Breast

The reason this chicken recipe is super easy is because..all you have to do is buy the package. When I don't have a lot of time I like to make something fast yet edible. It is a challenge to just go with what you have. I knew I had to get the main entree. I went to Smart and Final and got this "Raw Chicken Stuffed Breast" which was stuffed with broccoli and cheese. It looked appetizing but I had a feeling it might be dry despite the cheese stuffing. I imagined a jelly doughnut with hardly any jelly inside. All I had to do was bake the individually wrapped chicken breast for about 30 minutes. I had some left over bleu cheese mixed with mascarpone which I melted in the microwave, then drizzled it on top of the crispy chicken breast. It was delicious.

For a side dish, I boiled some yukon potatoes with the skin then mashed them. I added a good amount of butter but then used skim milk (can't splurge all the time),feta cheese, salt & pepper. The potatoes were lumpy and had chunks of skin which I do like.

Since the broccoli was not enough vegetable serving for our daily allowance (as if I really cared), I microwaved some frozen peas and added a bit of sugar and whoala, the peas tasted so fresh!

So, there you have it...easy but I can't really say "easy as pie" unless of course you pick one from the freezer section!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oliver's Cafe in Redondo Beach

I have been wanting to try this place ever since I read a great review in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News in September of 2011. How can it not be good with an executive chef David Linville; who has worked at St. Regis Hotel, Ritz Carlton & Mastros Steakhouse.

The good news is the food is very good. We started with the butter lettuce salad with bacon, tomato, charred corn and bleu cheese. We split the salad and ended up with a generous portion. The kitchen was kind enough to split it for us and still had a nice presentation.

Cynthia ordered the 5 oz. filet mignon with a bordelaise sauce on the side. She asked that it be cooked medium. When it arrived and she made her first incision...I could only see red. She ate it anyways; she managed to cut an end piece so I could try was delicious.

I ordered the coconut milk braised monkfish with black rice. They were out of monkfish so they substituted sea bass. I was happy with my dish as the fish was fresh, light and the coconut milk enhanced the delicate flavor of the sea bass. The black rice was nice and a bit crunchy.

For dessert, we decided to split the pear bread pudding with caramel and vanilla ice cream. This was a dessert not to be missed per the article I read. The verdict is in...both Cynthia and I thought it was o.k., there were not enough pears, in fact, it was mostly bread and not enough pears. As far as the caramel, the only visible caramel was what was drizzled on and around the pudding.

Oliver's is just a cafe and not anything more. It is a pity because the food is good. The restaurant does not give Chef Linville justice. The place is a hodgepodge of everything from Oliver Twists prints (which is fine if they stuck to that theme), vinyl italian tablecloths (would have been good to replace them with white crisp tablecloths), fake plastic plants, multicolored chairs and the worst it the dirty soiled carpets that were there since Tony Romas and Chicago Ribs. If you walked in today, you would think you were in the old restaurant. I have to mention that the music was loud and again did not go with anything, it was just annoying.
They had a lively crowd at the bar since they have a happy hour deal that goes on everyday starting at 4 p.m. where you could get inexpensive wine and beer and small plates at a discount.

Take the family by all means and you don't have to get dressed up. As we left, a man came in in shorts and a sweatshirt. If you want a romantic dinner find another place.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Jumbo Seafood

When is Singapore, do not miss this restaurant. There is a dish you have to order and experience. It is the bamboo clam. It is seasonal so it is not always available. I was lucky to be there in May last year when it was in season. I visited my brother Dino who lives there and one of the many places he and his family took me was this place. He was all excited about this clam. I am not a fan of clams but will have it when served.

The bamboo clam came. It looked like a bamboo outside and the inside looked disgusting with cilantro to cover up this unappetizing thing! If Dino and his wife Grace thought it was great, I figured; " How bad can it be?" I tried it and boy oh's one of the best things I ever had in my life! How can anything look so bad and yet taste so, so very good?

They also ordered the chile crab which Singapore is known for. I can't get too excited over this even if it was delicious because the work involved in eating crabs takes away from my eating pleasure. I even offered to employ my nephew Luigi to crack and peel my crab for me but he respectfully declined.

My other favorite dish was the cereal shrimps. I had it at another restaurant but this was better since the shrimps were already peeled, therefore ready for consumption (no peeling needed). This was so delicious! Can't even describe it. You just have to try it...period!

Of course, when you feel like you've had enough Chinese, there is always, Osteria Mozza, Lawrys, Mortons, and even Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cafe Cegos

Café Cegos is a quaint little place in Rolling Hills Estates that has been around for 21 years.

The only reason is has survived this long is the quality of their food. They have great New Zealand rack of lamb, filet mignon with the incredible green peppercorn sauce or mushroom sauce. The base of the sauce is veal stock that cooks for many hours. There is no shortcut for great sauces. Most entrees are served with fresh vegetables, roesti potato or you could ask for spaetzle which is divine when soaked in their brown sauce. They are also known for wonderful fresh fish. The secret dressing they put on their salad is great, not to mention their homemade rolls.

If you like bratwurst with sauerkraut and roesti potato, you will not be disappointed. If you’ve never attended their Oktoberfest; you should call them to find out which weekend in October they have it as the German specialties are fantastic. This is the only time, they make their apple strudel which is done to perfection, lots of flaky layers and the apples are not sweet which is why you need to add a dollop or two of whipped cream.
Not everyone can wait till October, so what’s for dessert? The best you can order is the chocolate soufflĂ© which they are known for. As soon as it is served, you make a slit in the middle and pour on the whipped cream!

Now, for the not so good news, you have to try and go there on a Monday night when the owner is not there. Let’s just say, he is not always welcoming as you would expect an owner to be. He will say and do as he pleases often upsetting the customer. If you end up there on the other nights when he is present, think of it as a challenge; see if you could order, enjoy your meal and just try to avoid contact with him. If you can do that, then I congratulate you!

Piero Selvaggio; I Salute You!

Valentino, the 40 year old restaurant in Santa Monica is still around and is going strong. The secret is Piero Selvaggio; the owner who literally started from the bottom, being a busboy at Chasens to owning his very own restaurant.

My friend Mary and I took advantage of the "Dine in LA" week. Our waiter, Paolo brought us the wine menu which was bigger than the Holy Bible. Not surprising as they have one of the best and most comprehensive wine cellars in the world! They have over 2,000 choices; 130,000 bottles. Lets just say, we ordered a good chianti which was less than $1,000. We decided on the 3 course menu which looked inviting; we pondered awhile which items we both liked so we can have a real tasting feast. For our first course, we ordered the Tortino di Melanzane with pappa al pomodora, e.v. olive oil. It looked like a flan with a strong tomato taste with olive oil; it had just the right zing to it.
The other appetizer was the octopus salad which I normally would not order but I figured, this was the place to do it. Boy was I ever so had tender (not rubbery) pieces of octopus with celery and bottarga. The dressing was perfect!

For our second course, we tried the two color fettuccine with meat ragu and the mezze maniche cacio e pepe with pecorino, pepper and dried chilies. These 2 pastas were heavenly. Mary and I both looked at each other and really thought we just died and went straight to heaven.

The third course arrived; the veal milanese with arugula and cherry tomatoes and the lasagna with vegetables, ricotta and tomato. The veal was a generous portion so it was perfect for 2. The lasagna was very good and went well with our veal.

After this sumptuous meal, we decided to split the tiramisu. If you like tiramisu, make sure you don't split it; order 1 for yourself as it is so light you won't even notice you're consuming it.

This was a perfect dining experience as our waiter, Paolo gave us the attention we expected for a fine dining restaurant. The next time I go back, I will be sure to ask for Paulo as he truly understands what fine dining is all about.

So, Piero Selvaggio, I wish you another 40 years of success.

Note: The pictures are not clear since the place was dark. Hopefully you get the picture..