Saturday, April 28, 2012

Macarons from 'lette

'lette formerly Paulette is queen of macarons at least in Los Angeles.  The store is located in Beverly Hills. Macarons; not to be confused with macaroons are a totally different breed of cookies. They originated in France. The famous Laduree in Paris; inventor of macarons is where I was first introduced to these delicate crunchy outside and chewy inside cookies many years ago.  They are filled with a creamy ganache.

'lette is the closest to the real thing.  These come in many different flavors like, salted caramel, columbian coffee, lemon, rose, violet cassis, to name a few. They also have seasonal flavors like lychee and  passion fruit.  They are delicate and delicious plus they look very pretty in their pastel colors. They make a great gift packed in a nice box. My cousin Ramon gave me a box for my birthday.

I have had many macarons from different patiserries but most of them are just too sweet. So if you can't hop on a plane to go to a Laduree in Paris, Tokyo, Geneva, or the latest one to open in New York, go to 'lette in Beverly Hills and you won't be disappointed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

French Omelettes and More

The other day, I stopped by at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance for breakfast. I thought I would try their french omelettes which was explained to me by the owner that it is different from the fluffy or souffle type omelette we are used to seeing. The french omelettes are flat, brown outside which looks overcooked but soft and tender inside.

I had my reservations but a friend told me they were really good; plus I hardly ever order omelettes since they never did excite me. I figured, an egg is still an egg. There were at least 6 kinds, from black forest ham with cheddar, mediterraean, cheddar with portobello mushrooms....I picked the prosciutto with ricotta.

The omelette came with a big slice of fresh french bread, butter and their homemade jam which is incredible and is also for sale. It also came with a green salad with your choice of citrus, oil and vinegar, or ranch dressing. I chose the oil and vinegar. The dressing was really smooth and subtle which complemented the sharp prosciutto. The omelette was very good. That with a strong cup of coffee and I felt I was ready to conquer the day.

Just before I left, I took one last look at their showcase (big mistake) and I just had to take some raspeberry croissants home.  I noticed they had sticky buns and very inviting scones. I took some of those to try.  For lunch I decided to have the scone. It filled me up since I was still full from the omelette; otherwise I could have eaten 2 easily. They were crunchy outside and soft inside. It was loaded with blueberries. Best scones I have had !!

The following morning, I thought I would attack the sticky cinnamon bun with lots of nuts.  I popped it in the microwave for 20 seconds and it seemed like my mother or grandmother just baked them. Well, not really, I wouldn't know since my mother and grandmother never baked!

I wish they would stop baking new things as I am having a hard time catching up.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birthday Celebration at Ocean Tava

What fun we had on a Wednesday evening at Ocean Tava in Redondo Beach, California. They still have their special 3 course menu every Wednesday for $20 which includes a glass of Merlot or Pinot Grigio. Since we were celebrating my birthday, my friends supplied the champagne to go with the spicy food and a very impressive chocolate cake with chocolate chips all decked up with a shoe and a purse to match. Unfortunately, the shoe was way too small!

We were treated like royalty. I have blogged about their food previously and you really cannot go wrong with the choices they offer as we haven't had anything not worth talking about at this restaurant. Just be sure you order the chicken tava special and the paneer and you are good to go.  We ordered that in addition to the 3 course meal.  There were 6 of us and we still had a lot of left overs.

We were so busy enjoying our food and having a great time that we missed the sunset!  So, to my dearest friends I say: NAMASTE for a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cafe Pacific at Trump National Golf Club

Cafe Pacific at the beautiful Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes is still a nice place for your special occasion.
Almost everyone at the Palos Verdes Peninsula knows about their fabulous Sunday Brunch with fresh oysters, caviar, crab legs, and the famous short ribs to name a few. Add to this the spectacular view of the ocean and you have the perfect Sunday brunch.

For dinner, its best to get there before sunset. The ambiance is what fine dining should be. There are a lot of restaurants that  claim to be fine dining but its hard to fall in that category when the tables are close together that there is little privacy, or the chairs are too modern (nice to look at) but not comfortable, or music that isn't really music; you know what I mean.

Cafe Pacific has that elegant feel until you see some people in shorts that come to have their dinner. I think they should have a dress code...but that's another hot topic.

My husband took me there last night for my birthday. I missed Louis, the manager who happened to be off.  Our waiter took good care of us. We started out with the famous calamari with the aioli sauce. This is the best calamari  I have had so far. Every time I go to Cafe Pacific, it is a standing order to get the calamari.   It is very light (never rubbery) and quite addicting with the aioli sauce that has a bit of a kick. Their mussels are also excellent. I had them previously, I normally don't like mussels but my friend Alma ordered it one time and after I tried it, I have been hooked!

Otto ordered the homemade pappardelle with tips of fillet mignon, marinated tenderloin tips with spinach, portobello mushrooms, shallots, garlic and red wine sauce.  I have had this before and remembered it to be delicious. I ordered the marinated grilled diver scallops and prawns in sugar cane skewer which was served with lobster and lemon risotto with peas, onions and a leek vichysoise. I had no complaints. I wiped the plate clean. (What else is new?)

Dessert was an easy choice. I love their baked Alaska, so that's what I ordered.  Light meringue kinda burnt, was cooked to perfection with the vanilla ice cream inside and lots of caramel sauce surrounding it. Otto had the trio of creme brulee.  The flavors were vanilla bean, chocolate and lemon.  These were perfect conclusions to our nice meal.

Our server Ryan asked if I wanted to have a word with the chef.  Naturally, I did.  Louis introduced me to him last year. Chef Jean Pierre Vincent is the executive chef at this restaurant.  My husband and I mainly wanted to let him know how much we enjoyed the food. Chef JP (what people call him) has quite an impressive background. He was offered the  position as chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Academy of Culinary Arts at age 25! He worked all over Europe and is fluent in 5 languages.

Next time you are in the beautiful Palos Verdes area, stop by Cafe Pacific and make sure you order the calamari as one of your appetizers.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ink Restaurant

"When trying to express oneself, it's frankly quite absurd to leaf through lengthy lexicons to find the perfect word. A spontaneity keeps conversation keen, you need to find a way to say precisely what you mean." (from Mary Poppins)

The word is SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS.  That is the word to describe my ultimate dining experience at Ink in Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

My brother Gary and cousin Ramon took me there last night for my birthday. We opted not to go with the tasting menu as you only get 4 items plus dessert. We wanted to try as many little plates as possible. We ended up with 8 items which split 3 ways and a bottle of wine...was plenty.

The food is truly unbelievable. We started with the carrots with coconut ice, cardamon soil, carrot juice curry. Didn't even sound appetizing considering Gary and I hate coconut. The coconut ice looked like white rice but had the consistency of mini rice crispies but lighter and cold (after all it's ice) and crunchy yet melted in your mouth much faster than M&Ms. Then came the crab with charred avocado with a wonderful whipped fish sauce...yes...whipped; served with mushroom chicharron.  All we could do was moan......

We also had the beef tartare with hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri, horseradish with toasted rye. Even if you do not eat raw meat, you will end up loving this dish.  The brussels sprouts with pigs ears, lardo and apple was to die for. Don't try and picture an ear of a pig. No way does it look like it. These were crispy strands that looked like potato peel. Then came the spaghetti with giant squid, squash and hazelnut pesto. I imagined an ugly giant squid on top of the squash. can't even see the squid. In fact the spaghetti was covered with foam, something I am not fond of as far as looks. It reminds me of soap suds but once you get past the foam, you are once again on the right course.

The Baja scallops with egg yolk and gnocchi was excellent. Never had gnocchi this good ever! The tuna was served with dashi sponge, soy yozu and pear. For the finale, we had the pork belly with charcoal oil, BBQ flavor with corn. This was FANTASTIC.

For dessert, we had the yuzu curd with beet sorbet and peach. Our favorite was the apple, caramel with burnt wood ice cream. Ohhh maammma!

Chef Michael Voltaggio was busy all night working his magic. I had to go up to interrupt his concentration to tell him what he already knows......


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Apricot Bread

I have never had Apricot bread; and I don't mean like your typical banana nut, or zucchini bread which has a cake-like consistency. This is  REAL bread...Crusty outside and soft and chewy inside with chunks of apricots; how cool is that?

This is yet another discovery at the L'Amande Bakery at the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance. I went in there to get a few of my favorite raspberry croissants which is the best ever to bring to my brother in Santa Monica this evening.  As soon as I got home, I had to cut a piece while fresh and had it without anything on it. It was delicious. I can hardly wait for breakfast tomorrow so I can toast it lightly and put some butter and maybe some marmalade.

What I do not like about this bakery is the fact they keep making new things, just as I thought I discovered something extraordinary, they come up with something else. WHEN WILL IT END?????

Friday, April 20, 2012

Catch at the Casa Del Mar Hotel

Catch is a nice restaurant at the Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica, California. You can look out and see the beach and enjoy the California sunshine from inside. If you ever see the deal offered by Travelzoo for a 5 course meal for 2 which includes a glass of their signature cocktail, or red of white wine or real champagne (not sparkling wine) Perrier Jouet Grand Brut; make the purchase.

You will be pleasantly surprised at what you get. I included a copy of their special menu. They did not skimp on anything. I met my son there last night. The scene is vibrant; so vibrant that its a bit noisy since it has a huge bar area and last night, it seemed everyone from Santa Monica was unwinding. They even had live music. If you are able to tune that out, it is still possible to have a nice dinner.

We started with the Truffle Artichoke Soup. This was good but didn't make me jump for joy. The second course we both picked  the Dungeness Crab Salad with avocado, mango, crispy ginger in a citrus vinaigrette. This was indeed very good. The flavors of the the avocado and the ginger and mango with the chunks of crab was pure delight. The third course was the Ricotta Cavatelli. Cavatelli was new to my pasta vocabulary. They are pasta shells shaped like mini hot dog buns. This was cooked with mushrooms, thyme (my favorite herb) and mascapone. This could have been our entree, almost enough to fill one's hungry stomach!

For the fourth course, Erik decided on the Pan Roasted Striped Bass with chorizo, clams, spinach and cannelini beans. He seemed to be happy with it. I was much happier with my choice which was the Red wine Braised Beef Shortrib roasted with vegetables and black garlic gremolata (combination of garlic, lemon zest, parsley). There was no need to use a knife as I devoured the meat; it was so tender that it just flaked off.

Couldn't wait for dessert as I had my eye on the Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart with Espresso Gelato. That was perfect. It was a big piece, enough for 2 to share. Erik had the Warm Apple-Cranberry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream. I am not a fan of warm desserts so I just had a bite to see if I was missing anything special......not really.

For $80 this was a real bargain. They money you save will need to be applied towards the tip; since it is customary to tip on the full price which was $238.00 and the $7.00 parking fee with validation and tip for the valet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spaghetti with Shrimps in Brandy Sauce

I was at the market yesterday and saw these frozen raw shrimps for less that $8.00 for a bag of 30-40 shrimps. I thought it was a good deal. I just left it out on the kitchen counter since I would be cooking in about an hour or so. I know you are not suppose to do that, but as you can tell, I'm still here. It was almost fully defrosted; I was shocked to discover that they were not peeled. I wanted to throw them away; couldn't imagine peeling 30 or so shrimps! I looked at the package and it said "easy peel". I dunked the whole package in cold water and was surprised as it really did peel easily.

First I cooked a lb. of spaghetti in my pasta boat. This is the best invention ever. You don't have to deal with having to boil a lot of water, then draining the pasta and washing the big pot. All you do is put the pasta in the boat, cook as instructed in the microwave, but make sure you cook it in less time if you want your pasta aldente. Pasta Boat can be purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

In a big pan, I sauteed some chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. I then added a tub of sliced brown mushrooms. After a few minutes, I added the shrimps and poured some Mirin sauce (about 1/4 cup or so),salt and pepper. Covered the pan and I let it simmer for maybe 2 minutes. I then added a jar of Brandy Pasta Sauce which I got from World Market (Cost Plus), then added the spaghetti.

My husband and I loved it. I couldn't get over how good the shrimps were, not at all overcooked; it was juicy and succulent. If I may say so was fine dining!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gina Lee's Bistro

Gina Lee's Bistro has been at their location in Redondo Beach for 16 years. A teenager when it comes to restaurants but note that a lot of restaurants only survive as toddlers. The reason for this is the quality of food at reasonable prices.

We started with the fried calamari with sweet thai chili sauce. I was surprised as it was light as my favorite (Trumps) and the chili sauce was delicious. I would definitely order it again.

They are known for their killer catfish which is big; quality plus quantity. It really is delicious. I have not been there for many years. Somehow, I just forgot they were there. I took a friend for her birthday and we both decided to try Evelyn Dawn's Potato Crusted Atlantic Salmon with lemon dill sauce. Evelyn Dawn was the owner and founder of the private school Country Day in Rolling Hills where our son went from kindergarten to sixth grade. She was the sweetest lady and in her honor, I thought I should try her salmon. At $20.95, this was a bargain since you got 2 big pieces of salmon. If you thought this was too much to eat, you could also order a smaller portion for $12.50; but why order that if you can take 1/2 home and have another meal?

For dessert, they presented the birthday girl with a lemon souffle on a basket which was light and fluffy; very edible.

Another reason for their success is both Scott and Gina Lee are present to make sure you are happy with your order and happy we were......

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Buerre Demi-Sel

This is so far the best butter that I have tasted and I have tried a lot of them. Butter from France, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand to name a few are all very good but this takes the cake!

I accidentally discovered it while surfing the net. If you like salted butter, you can't get saltier and creamier than this. If you are not yet on Lipitor or Crestor for cholesterol, you may want to make an appointment with your cadiologist.
An ounce which is one serving has a total of 23.2 grams of fat (1.4% trans Fat) and a ton of calories which I better not mention. Note that this particular butter won the gold medal at the Concours General Agricole de Paris.

This can be ordered from In order to do justice to the butter, you will need the very best french bread. L'Amande bakery in Torrance have a variety of these French breads to go with your French butter.

Sometimes, the simple things in life really do give us a lot of pleasure.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mochi Madness

Do you love mochi? You can get them in all sorts of forms and buy them everywhere but the best ones are still from Japan. So you need to renew your friendship with anyone that is from Japan. Luckily I have Lorly who comes and vistits several times a year and brings me the best stuff.

I already talked about the Champagne Nama chocolates from Royce in my previous blog.
What I haven't talked about is the the ICHIGO DAIFUKU. When we were in Japan a couple of years ago, my brother and I looked all over for Ichigo Daifuku but couldn't find them since strawberries were not in season. These are mochi with fresh stawberries inside. It is fresh and therefore has to be eaten right away. You can't really refrigerate it because the mochi gets hard. The consistency of the mochi is so light that it is like eating cotton balls.

JJ Bakery in Torrance sells them but it is not the same. They have too much mochi and too small of a strawberry plus the mochi is not as light. The ichigo daifuku from Japan's mochi is proportionate to the strawberry.

Lorly also brought me something new. Mochi de Chocolat. They are little balls of chocolate mochi with a chocolate filling which is comparable to a pudding. It is not sweet so you have to eat a few to communicate to your taste buds that you are eating dessert. They are very good and this is something that would go well with a glass of champagne. After all, what dessert doesn't go with champagne?

Pizzeria Mozza

Hopefully, you live in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, in California or in Singapore. These are the only locations so far for Pizzeria Mozza. They really do have the best pizzas cooked of course in the an Italian wood burning stove.

Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich are the owners of Pizzeria Mozza. Nancy is the great inventor of the La Brea Breads so it is no surprise that she perfected the pizza dough that are thin and a bit chewy on the center and puffy and charred on the edges.

We ordered the Prosciutto di Parma with rucola, tomatoes and mozzarella. She was once referred to as "Mozzarella Queen" and for good reason. We started on this pizza which was absolutely delicious. Then came the Brussels Sprouts pizza with guanciale, panna, onions. This was OUTSTANDING! If you like brussels sprouts and bacon, you might just die after the first bite. O.K. a slight exaggeration but you get the point. If you don't like brussels sprouts, you may be in for the surprise of your may end up loving it. The bacon was nothing I've tasted before. It had a lot more flavor. I later found out that guanciale is usually unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig's jowl or cheeks. If I knew this I might not have ordered it but it just goes to show you....always try something before you judge.

For dessert, we ordered the Salted Caramel Budino which came with 2 little cookies with rosemary and pine nuts. We didn't care for the cookies. The Budino was very good with large bits of salt. I would order it again for sure but couldn't help comparing it with the one we had at Scarpetta which was better especially with the sable cookies.

Just goes to show you, a restaurant cannot be perfect in everything.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Papillote at L'Amande

Couldn't help going back to this bakery inspite of the rain. Had to try the Papillote. It's a french word which means paper or foil folded into a pouch or parcel. Indeed this pouch is filled with delightful custard, cinnamon and I'm sure butter. The custard is ever so light; not overbearing, in other words....perfect!

I also tried the Pan D'Amande which is an flat and thin almond cookie that was crisp and snapped with every bite. If you like nougat, do not leave without trying it. Better yet, take some home. It reminded me of the turrones from Spain only this was better as it was soft and a bit gooey and very fresh which went well with my cup of strong coffee.

I now fear my going to the gym might be counterproductive as this bakery is too close for comfort!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

L'Amande French Bakery

Finally, an authetic French bakery in the South Bay area. The bad news is if you expect pastries like mousses, cakes, cream puffs, you are out of luck but it's o.k. because we already have a couple of those in the area. The great news is if you like french bread, croissants, omelette, salads with a french flair, this is the place to go.

Yesterday,I sampled some of their wonderful breads; my favorite was the raisin walnut and the big french rolls. The taste and consistency was that what you would find in a Parisian Bakery. I had it at home with butter and jam.

I found out they open at 7:00 a.m., Hallelujah! I hate bakeries that open late like a bank. So today, after my workout at the gym at 7:15 a.m. I decided to jog to the the bakery (burn a few more calories) which is located in the same parking lot of the 24 Hour Fitness at the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance. I ordered a cup of coffee which was strong without being bitter like the ones in France and the raspberry cream cheese croissant. I also ordered the raisin croissant to take home to my husband.

The server brought my raspberry croissant and the raisin croissant on 2 plates. I asked for a bag since the raisin was for my husband. I consumed the raspberry in less than 2 minutes. It was the BEST ever. They apparently make their own jams and that made it really special. The raisin croissant looking lonely on the plate whispered: "Please take me...Now!" So I did. It was very good as well, really flaky and it had a ton of raisins.

I had a long conversation with Ana, the owner. She went to school in Switzerland and later opened a chain of 25 Le Coeur de France bakeries in the Philippines. She and her husband later sold all of them and moved to Palos Verdes in California. Before I left, she introduced me to her very sweet French husband, Goncalo. Make sure you say "Bonjour" the next time you see him.

I will have to go back numerous times and be sure to blog about the other items. There are a few coffee houses in the vicinity. I felt like jogging to each one of them and announcing to the customers to try L'Amande for they not only have great coffee but wonderful breakfast selections unlike the dried up pastries they sell at these coffee houses.

Till then......