Monday, May 28, 2012

Simple Salmon Dinner

Yesterday, my son and I were at the market and I asked him what he wanted for dinner. Salmon, he said. O.K. got 3 pieces of salmon from Ralph's. I also got some fresh asparagus and another request was the pasta shells.


All I did was marinate the salmon with lemon juice, added some sea salt, pepper and a bit of honey Dijon marinate. I then proceeded to broil them in the toaster oven for about 6 minutes. It turned out  to be very tender.

I cooked the asparagus in the microwave with a bit of water. While still crisp I drained the water, added some olive oil, sea salt and drizzled some raspberry ginger  balsamic vinegar made by Tavern on the Green. (This can be ordered through their website) This balsamic vinegar is delicious and is my everyday salad dressing.

I opened a box of Pasta Roni with white cheddar and cooked according to the directions on the box. The creaminess of the pasta shell went well with the delicate salmon and the asparagus with the raspberry ginger flavor.


Before our main entree, I served a carrot soup I purchased from L'Amande Bakery in Torrance. It was deeelicious; was served with a bit of cream and croutons made from their wonderful breads.


This meal turned out to be wonderful. It was very easy and the finished product was surprisingly awesome.

Urth Caffee

I was is Santa Monica yesterday and my brother and cousin took me to Urth Caffee for breakfast.  It is a place that specializes in organic coffee. They started out as an organic coffee company and later opened several locations in Melrose in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and downtown L.A.

I would never go on my own to anything organic but my brother assured me, they have an array of pastries, salads and sandwiches. The coffee was indeed very good. My brother Gary ordered the waffle with fresh fruit and syrup. It looked o.k., couldn't get excited over plain waffles. Ramon and I decided to split a prosciutto and egg panini and the caramelized banana bread pudding.


The panini came served with salsa which it needed badly as it was pretty much tasteless. We were hungry even if we already had a raspberry croissant  which I brought for them to eat as an appetizer before we even hit the cafe.  The caramelized banana bread pudding was quite good. It was not the best; it looked a lot better than it tasted.


While we were in line to order our food, I spotted a pastry which made my heart skip a beat. It was called Pompeii Cream Puff: a pastry shell filled with caramel & vanilla pastry cream. I bought a couple to take home. It was very good. I should have bought more. Oh well, there's always a next time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Bread at L'Amande

Believe it or not, I was not the first person to get this bread. My friend Sandi beat me to it! How dare she.. Guilt set in so she felt she had to buy me a loaf when it made it's touch down at exactly 11:30 a.m. today at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance.


What a delightful bread. I sliced me a piece of this freshly baked crusty bread with cherries and applied some Philadelphia chocolate cream cheese which enhanced the chocolate flavor. For chocolate lovers, it couldn't be better. My husband thought the chocolate spread overpowered the bread (what does he know).  If you choose not to add more chocolate, perhaps just the regular cream cheese would suffice. For the less adventurous, butter will do.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Lewis

You might wonder what my nephew Lewis has to do with my food blog. Well, it's all about desserts, the difficult choices we are faced with in our daily lives. It was his birthday and his classmates were singing "Happy Birthday". You can see how he is salivating and wondering which cupcake to attack first. This is pretty much how I feel when I go to a bakery or a gourmet chocolate salon.



This video was taken by his parents at his pre-school in Singapore.
Happy Birthday Lewis....and may you have many more cupcakes in your life!

Madeleines

These french cake-like cookies are ubiquitous in specialty stores and gourmet markets.
There are many kinds with different flavors. There's nothing like the pure simple Madeleines made with honey.  You can't get it fresher than the ones you get at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance. It's a nice snack anytime of day that goes well with coffee, tea and even champagne. What doesn't go with champagne?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pappardelle al Cioccolato

Pappardelle al Cioccolato con Salsa d'Aragosta. Even if you don't speak Italian, you probably can guess what cioccolato means....yes, it's chocolate. Pappardelle is a flat, broad pasta about 3/4-1 inch in width.  This is a specialty dish served at the very sophisticated and classy restaurant Valentino's in Santa Monica, California.

My friend and I celebrated her birthday there last night. She has never been to Valentino's (but I forgive her) and was impressed as soon as our server Paul, explained the specials to us and how he intended to surprise us with the wine. My friend can only drink a glass of wine and since I definitely cannot finish a bottle on my own, we decided to order by the glass. He suggested we start with a white wine (1/2 glass each) and have another full bodied red with our entree.  We opted to stick with red so he opened a bottle of Italian red wine and had us both try it. Very drinkable indeed. It was perfect with the soft shell crab we ordered as an appetizer. This was the best soft shell crab. It was served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with some greens and the best part was the orange sauce which they served on the side so you could either drizzle some or have the crab swimming in it. (Mine was doing a breast stroke to stay afloat )



For our entree, we had the pappardelle made with chocolate although you don't really taste chocolate per se since it is mixed in with the flour when they make the pasta. This was served with roma tomatoes and lobster chunks. I have had this many times in the past and I always have to order it. My friend and I split that order and ordered another pasta. We had the Setaro Paccheri Salsa Bolognese. This bolognese ragu was very good, it hardly needed parmesan cheese but since I am a parmesan addict, I had to have a light shower over the pasta.



Dessert time...since it was my friend's birthday, I refused to share desserts. She had to have her own. Twisted her arm again and talked her into ordering the Il Budino alla Vaniglia e Croccante, which was a vanilla and praline pudding with almond orange. The orange gave it a nice zing. I decided on the Tiramisu with coffee sauce and seasonal sorbet. It was not bad at all since I finished the big serving. I could not determine the  flavor of the sorbet. It was dark, fruity and it had tiny crunchy balls in it. I forgot to ask Paul, another reason to go back.



Valentino is currently offering a $25 discount to all Open Table members who request it from their server. (restrictions apply) Ask for Paul who has worked there for 13 years; you can tell he enjoys what he does and that makes all the difference in the world to make your dining experience unforgettable.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scones Gone Wild

L'Amande Bakery has done it again. They have gone scone crazy. I have previously blogged about their blueberry, fig, white chocolate chip & cashew scones. I have yet to try their lemon-lavander with lemon curd scones.

Yesterday, I was lucky to try yet another new scone. Orange chocolate chip.....loved it.
It had a a bunch of chocolate chips and you could  see and taste the orange rind in it.
The result was like husband and wife on their honeymoon! It was so good that I didn't need to put any butter on it. Crisp on the outside and soft and moist inside unlike other scones.


So, if you're lucky enough and spot any scones the next time you visit this bakery in Torrance, buy a few cuz you'll never know when you will meet again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Poppadoms

Poppadoms, or papadum,  are crisp Indian crackers which make great appetizers especially when served with chutney, dips and condiments.
My friend Mertz, (as in Ethel Mertz) brought me 2 bags of poppadoms she got from India Spiceland on Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance, California.
These poppadoms looked like tortillas. The instructions were to pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds and they get crispy. Hard to believe that something cooked in the microwave can get crispy but it really did! The picture I have is before I zapped it in the microwave and after.



She brought the dip to go with it which was called "pickle".  This pickle was a combination of spicy vegetables and sweet mango. Interesting flavors and very good with the poppadoms. So the next time you want to impress your guests, you could serve this exotic appetizer with great flavors. You can get the poppadoms mild or a bit spicy.


She also brought some fresh blackberries from her garden and a couple of coffee plants for my husband to plant. She actually grows and roasts her own coffee beans. When she's not in her garden growing all sorts of fruit and vegetables, she is in the kitchen making apple butter and sauce (from her apple tree of course) and all sorts of  fruit jams.


What a nice friend to have...if only she can grow chocolates in her garden....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Island Buffet

I hate buffets...unless of course it is free.  As part of the Peppermill Resort Passport, at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada, we were extended the buy one get one free buffet brunch at the Island Buffet with a tropical rain forest motif.



There were no lines which was good because if there was a line and even if it was free, I wouldn't have stayed. It was very pleasant indeed and service was very good. A couple of servers kept coming to check on us to see if we needed anything else.

This was to be our last meal before we had to fly back to Los Angeles.  The had everything you normally see in a brunch buffet.  I even got some fruit which looked edible since it had a bit of some sauce mixed in with it. The scrambled eggs with mushrooms were good. The potato pancakes were just o.k.; too thick for my taste but with sour cream on top, it became a bit more exciting.


For dessert, I thought I would have the bread pudding with creme anglaise.  It was a bit too sweet so I decided to end my dessert with another dessert which was a scoop of coffee ice cream with a bit of chocolate fudge and caramel. (and I thought the bread pudding was too sweet)


Romanza Restaurant

Dinner at Romanza at the Peppermill Resort in Reno Nevada was surprisingly good.
This fine dining restaurant was indeed a place to take your hot date or someone you want to impress. It is of course Italian, as the name implies. It reminded me of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.


We ordered a bottle of champagne and calamari for appetizers. The appetizer was free since I enrolled in the "Peppermill  Passport", a card wherein I earn points when I gamble (there was a $10 credit on it) and a "55 plus" (senior discount). How exciting is that? In California, they keep raising the age for seniors. When I turn 60, I'm sure they will raise it to 65!

My husband ordered the roasted chicken stuffed with prosciutto, baby arugula, fontina cheese with red peppers and tomato risotto. It did look good after his first incision that I was sorry I didn't take a picture. I always think "chicken is ...well...chicken"
I was good and did not order pasta or steak which I usually do. I decided to try the sea bass with shrimp risotto and lobster cream sauce topped with arugula and radicchio.
It was delicious and we both made an effort not to have leftovers since we wouldn't be able to take it home. We did finish everything and was almost to full to order dessert.


I said: "Almost".  Otto didn't want to order dessert but was willing to help me out. I ordered the the Tiramisu. For $8.00 this was a bargain. It was not the best but good enough. This had espresso and kahlua in it aside from the mascarpone cheese and the best part was the cup it was served in.  No, not fine china but fine dark chocolate. What a treat.


FYI, since I am not a gambler, I went to the 1cent slot machine and played for about 30 minutes since I had the $10 credit. I won and lost and at the end...I made $25. That's when I stopped. I don't think Peppermill Casino will be inviting me anytime soon.

Biscotti Restaurant in Reno

We traveled to Reno, Nevada to view the annular solar eclipse which will not occur  again for another 20 years. Stayed at the Peppermill Resort which has a casino of course, and a bunch of casual and fine dining restaurants.

My husband and I were starving when we got there at 10:30 a.m (o.k. I confess...I was starving) so we landed at a vibrant and colorful restaurant in the hotel called Biscotti.
I could not decide what to order; there was a lemon ricotta pancake, bourbon vanilla french toast, etc. but I decided to order something hearty since our next meal was not going to be until 9:00 p.m. I figured that if we get stranded in the desert while viewing the eclipse I will have a lot of fat on reserve that would keep me alive for a couple of days at the most. So I decided on the short rib hash. It was a very good decision. Big chunks of tender short ribs with potatoes topped with 2 poached eggs cooked to perfection and bearnaise sauce on top. Not bad at all.  Otto just had some scrambled eggs with sausage and toast (nothing special; therefore no picture).


After this nice breakfast, we were  ready to conquer the day and patiently wait for the eclipse on Pyramid Lake. The wait was worth it. Equipped with welder's glasses, we were able to see something that most people only saw on T.V. or the Internet. I took pictures of the clouds that had pretty colors on them before the eclipse occurred. Can't explain the reflections.


My pictures were taken with my smart phone. I didn't have a fancy camera with the necessary lenses. Sorry, Ryan!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tony Roma's

Still not a bad place to go if you're craving baby back ribs. It's not the best ribs I have had but it will do. Even better if you go on a Friday during happy hour. You really can get happy when you can order your first drink for only 99 cents. (and that's any drinks in the menu) I had one of their margaritas and my friend had a bahama mama. With the gigantic glass, all I needed was one drink.


The ribs were tender enough and yes, you really have to use your hands to enjoy them. My friend and I decided on the full slab of baby back ribs for $3.00 difference from the 1/2 rack. She was good and ate only half. I, on the other hand almost finished all of it but left 3 pieces since I had bread before the our entree. The baked potato was perfect with everything on it. I thought I needed to feed my body something healthy so I opted for the steamed broccoli which was good with a sprinkling of salt.


Next time we go on a Friday of course, we decided to just have some of their appetizers to go with our drinks and maybe skip the ribs as we were so stuffed that dancing the waltz that evening did not burn enough calories.

FYI, the happy hour drinks for 99 cents on Friday's is only available at the Tony Roma's in Torrance, California.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Delight Cup Cakery

I am not a cupcake fan. I have tried a lot of them. They're miniature cakes...big deal!
My hairdresser, Jody and friend Kathy were talking about these incredible cupcakes with unusual flavors.  Unusual caught my attention.

The My Delight Cup Cakery is a food truck but also a bakery in Ontario, California.
I didn't know when the food truck would be at my area again so on the way back from Palm Springs, we stopped by this bakery. I actually called a few days in advance and placed my order. I didn't want to go all the way there and have them tell me they ran out.

Had to try the" breakfast cake" which is a light and fluffy buttermilk based cupcake with bits of applewood smoked bacon, iced with buttery maple frosting topped with more bacon and drizzled with maple syrup. All I can say is it's my kind of breakfast. It really was very good.

I also had to try the the "late night breakfast" which is a light and very flavorful waffle-inspired cupcake stuffed with buttermilk-soaked fried chicken (I know what you're thinking...but don't knock it till you've tried it) topped with smooth buttery frosting with another piece of chicken on top drizzled with a blend of maple syrup and spices.
I wouldn't mind having this breakfast "early" or any time of day. I must warn you that this is only available on Wednesdays.

The other flavor I tried later that evening was the dulce de leche. It's a bit on the sweet side. I ate a big one though you can purchase mini cupcakes for $1.50. (except for the chicken which is $2.00) Most regular cupcakes are $3.50 (again the chicken is $4.00)

The red velvet is good if you like red velvet.  I always thought that red velvet is overrated. Its a cake with food coloring. This is probably where Christian Louboutin got the idea for his red sole shoes!

This is the first time I can honestly say I enjoyed cupcakes. They really were delightful.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Le Vallauris

I had made dinner reservations at this restored historical landmark in Palm Spring, California  as suggested by my college friend Cindy.  She has always wanted to go to this french restaurant in her college days but never got around to it. A close friend of hers lived around the corner. This restaurant has been in existence for over 30 years. I quickly checked my zagat guide book to see how it was rated. A "26" for food, "27" for decor and "26" for service.  Not bad.

Our timing was perfect. Last night was the night they erected the 26ft. Marilyn Monroe statue in Palm Springs. To our surprise, it was on the same block of Le Vallauris. That was a bonus.

We were escorted by Olivier the maitre d'  (who resembled a movie star we all know; I'll leave it up to you to figure it out) to an outside patio that was enchanting.  The temperature outside was in the high 90's but it was quite pleasant since they had air condition outside.

Cindy and I decided to go for the prix fixe menu. The price was a very reasonable $58 per person. Our server, James should give a course on how to be a server at fine dining establishments.  He was the best.

For mise en bouche: we had ahi tuna tartar in a cone, pate maison: both very good and chilled carrot and curry soup which was deeelicious.
We had a choice of appetizers and we both ordered the cauliflower salad with chilled bay scallops. It was so simple and refreshing. Nothing overpowered the scallops.

I ordered the pan seared beef filet with stuffed portobello. I was hoping Cindy would order the sauteed prawns with lobster sauce so I can try it but she was also in the mood for beef.  The steaks were cooked to perfection with just the right amount of sauce.

While we were having our dinner, Olivier kept checking on us to make sure everything was to our satisfaction. Later on, another gentleman approached our table to say hello who was the owner's brother.  We both told him how very pleased we were with everything.

Dessert was an easy decision. We both settled for the chocolate volcano with pistachio ice cream. I thought for sure this would be their downfall. How can everything be very good?  I am pleased to say this volcano lived up to its name. It erupted in our mouths like no other volcano. For chocolate lovers, this is it!

The next time I am anywhere near Palm Springs, I promise the gods I will stop by Le Vallauris to have dinner.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tinto

Tinto is one of the 5 New Hot Spots in Palm Springs.  Iron Chef Jose Garces is the chef and owner of this new restaurant.  I made reservations a week ago and was excited to try the pintxos, which are small plates and is the Basque equivalent of tapas.

We started with the Tinto Sangria which is red wine, apples, spiced simple syrup & fresh fruit. It was very refreshing especially coming from outside which was 105 degrees at 6:30 p.m.

We had the charcuterie of meats which included Jamon Serrano, chorizo pamplona, saucisson sec and lomo. Before it arrived, we were served 2 cheese rolls with a dip goat cheese, aioli w/ peppers. To me, it tasted like cheese whiz with some aioli. The cheese rolls were o.k., nothing to write home about. In fact I mentioned to my friend how I haven't had the cheese rolls at Lobster House (the only thing they have good at that restaurant; lobster is always overcooked) in a long time.

The charcuterie came with a few slices of french bread if you can call it that. The bread was tasteless. The meats were good but not exciting.
We ordered Dungeness crab with avocado, espelette chile. We both thought the crab had too much lemon that overpowered the sweetness of crab. The diver scallops looked good cooked in cider demi-glace, bacon and shaved apple. It was good....case closed.

The kobe beef was very tender as should be but not much flavor especially on top of the tasteless bread.
Our final pintxos was the artichoke which sounded promising since our server raved about it.  Baby artichokes with fresh pappardelle, meyer lemon. My friend and I had 2 small bites each. On a good note, the pappardelle was aldente. The artichokes were just too sour.  Reminded me of the ones you buy in a jar.  We could not finish it. Another good note, our server apologized and took it off our bill.

This meal was a total disappointment that we decided not to even try their desserts.  I am so sorry to say that I cannot recommend this restaurant to anyone at least not for now.

P.S. This review is dedicated to my brother Gary.