Friday, September 28, 2012

Whoo-ah ! Bread Pudding

This is no ordinary bread pudding.  In fact, it is the perfect bread pudding which is served with  a burnt salted caramel sauce.

I had it literally out of the oven and I thought I was going to pass out. It was just wonderful.  I took some home and I experimented to see how it would taste at room temperature.  It was still very good.

The following day, after being refrigerated overnight, I had a bite of it cold...though I like cold desserts,  I did not like it as the pudding became more of a "pudding" and was almost heavy.  So, in the microwave it went for several seconds.  It was like Lazarus coming back from the dead!  It was just as delicious as the first time but maybe a tad better as everything seemed to be more harmonious.  The texture was back to it's original form which was more like a souffle. 

This bread pudding from L'Amande Bakery in Torrance is not always available.  It will be made to order and order I will!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Impromptu Dinner for Surprise Guests

When I have a couple of hours of notice for surprise guests; I have to think fast and improvise.
Yesterday was one of those days.  Fortunately, the guests were not real guests....they were relatives.

I ran over to L'Amande Bakery in Torrance and got 2 orders of their "Charcuterie Plate".  It had black forest ham, prosciutto from Genoa which is aged 13 months, dry salami from Lyon, olives, mustard and Cornish pickles.  As luck would have it, L'Amande had their new apple tart which I had previously ordered.  It looked too small as I could very well have eaten 1/4 with no problem, so I decided to get an extra one to feed 5. Then I went to Trader Joe's next door to get a variety of cheeses. I also had some left over chips and salsa which was still good. That....and a nice bottle of Bollinger champagne brought the hors d' oeuvres to the next level.

At around 4:45 p.m. I had to either turn into Julia Child or drive to a nearby restaurant.  I excused myself and drove to Gaetano's Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance.  Vince, was happy to suggest what I could feed my foodie relatives.  I only knew for sure I had to order their famous and very addicting fried artichoke hearts. He suggested the Penne Asparagi, with grilled chicken, fresh asparagus, Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan & garlic. He also suggested Eggplant Parmigiana which was cooked with their homemade marinara sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, served with linguini.
Two orders of everything should have been enough but as I glanced at their menu, something caught my eye.....the Tagliatelle & Chianti Short Ribs (which I have had before and just loved) Homemade tagliatelle paste, pancetta, beef short ribs, herbs, light cream and pureed tomatoes. 

Everything was delicious. I had no complaints and believe me, one relative in particular (who shall remain nameless) would have complained if something was not very good.

I almost forgot to take pictures of the dishes. By the time I remembered, the fried artichoke hearts had vanished into thin air!

Dessert was the apple tart. I have talked about how to eat this tart (like a pizza) . I purposely did not give anyone forks but Elliot managed to grab a spoon and tried to cut the tart when he was startled by me yelling at him to stop.  I got everyone's attention, so I explained how the tart should be eaten properly; picking it up like a pizza and just biting into the flaky crust. FYI, it was also easier to cut the tart with a pizza cutter.

So the moral of the story is:  Don't panic.....think inside the box....what's close to you...think of places you enjoy in your neighborbood.  By the way, the tart served 5 with a couple of left over slices.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Preview of Tarts to Come

I happened to be at the right place at the right time.  When I went to L'Amande Bakery this afternoon, three more tarts were born.  Baby pear, baby plum and baby fig.

I had to try all of them but didn't want to look like a pig and eat it right there, though I could have very well done that with no problem.  I told them I was going to take it home so my husband and I could have it for dessert.

We had it for dessert. We split them and I served them with whipped cream. It was sheer delight! I could not even pick which I liked best.  It is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child.  I suppose it will depend on what fruit you favor....but you must take my word for it...they were so good and flaky, just like the apple tart I had yesterday.

My husband did not get to taste the apple tart as I consumed that baby at the bakery. So when I gave him 1/2 of each of the tarts tonight, I instructed him on how to properly eat them to get the full benefit.  Even with the whipped cream on top, I asked him to pick it up like a pizza because if you eat it with a fork, you compress the light buttery layers of flaky dough therefore making it a tiny bit doughy. When you take a bite, you get to taste the individual layers that are just yummmmy!

Can't wait till the end of October when these babies will hopefully be in full swing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicken Goulash

If you don't have time to eat out, or you think it is too hot or cold to get dressed and sit in a restaurant, consider getting something "to go" from a restaurant.

This afternoon was just that time to get something for dinner.  I went to Cafe Cegos at 777 Deep Valley Dr. in Rolling Hills Estates.  Aside from their signature lamb chops and filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce, they have some lighter dishes.

I decided to get their chicken goulash with homemade spatzle (German noodles). Their spatzle is the best! It is perfect not only with the goulash but with the veal which they serve and is called Jaeger schnitzel (my favorite).

When you order the goulash, make sure you tell them your preference as to mild or spicy. It sometimes depends which cook is on duty. I have had it mild and spicy at well.

Their fish is always fresh. Not to be missed is their poached salmon with cucumber salad.  I must say that when I ordered the poached salmon at the famous Fouquet's in Paris a few years ago, I was disappointed because it was not better that Cafe Cegos.
Just goes to show you, you don't have to travel to Paris to get good salmon; but by all means, travel to Paris because's Paris!!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tarts for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner; and if you're like me, I like to plan ahead. Aside from the normal turkey and pumpkin pie, it is nice to have something different other than pumpkin pie. I for one do not like pumpkin pie. It reminds me of something which I will not mention.

I was at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance for brunch today and I got a preview of things to come. Three of the desserts they will be making for Thanksgiving are: apple tart, almond honey, and pistachio honey tart. We started with the apple tart. This was simply deeelicious.  I found that picking it up like a pizza is the best way to enjoy it because if you use a fork, it compresses the flakiness of the tart as it does not have any filling. If you take a bite, you will notice the crispiness of the tart. The almond honey and the pistachio were just as delicious. The almond and the pistachio fillings were dense in a good way and almost creamy.  The best part was; it was not too sweet like  baklava which can sometimes be overpowering.

I had to take a picture of the slices to give you an idea of how flaky the and light these tarts are and believe it or not, they even taste better than it looks.....if that's possible!

I don't know about you but I am putting my order in for those tarts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Comfort Food

I haven't been out of the house since my  husband got back from the hospital. Some of my dear friends have gotten dearer to me.  They brought food for us. There's nothing like someone else's cooking.  Amy brought some stuffed bell peppers which were from their garden; and she baked a whole apple pie; apples from their tree of course!

Sandi brought chicken with brussels sprouts and bacon with a side of sweet potatoes. She also brought 2 desserts she purchased from Chantilly in Lomita.


The combination of the Sandi's chicken and Amy's stuffed bell peppers were perfect.

My friend Ana, brought some pastries from my favorite bakery (L'Amande) in Torrance, and a loaf of bread. In my excitement, I forgot to take pictures.

These meals were good for several dinners. In addition to these ready made meals, Amy brought some fresh tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini.

Last night I made an omelet with mushrooms and eggplant with some brie cheese which was delicious along with the fresh bread from L'Amande.

With some left over fresh eggplant and mushrooms, I decided to cook some penne pasta with truffle butter, truffle oil and a bit of cream. It turned out to be very good. I served that with a salad made from lettuce also from Amy and Nako's garden. I know what you're there anything that doesn't grow in their garden?

Many thanks to Amy, Ana and Sandi. I wanted to be politically correct so I listed your names in alphabetical order.

Green Tea Donuts

Let me start by saying I don't really like green tea. Green tea, green tea ice cream or any green tea desserts. I know it is good for you.  Eight years ago, I thought I would be kind to my body so I drank green tea with my lunch at work. I did this for a year or so.  Then, I got breast cancer.... I am fine now. The green tea didn't help so that was the last time I had it.

My niece Aimee told me about the green tea donuts at Cafe Dulce at Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.  It didn't sound exciting enough.  As far as I know, Cafe Dulce is synonymous with bacon donuts. I have made many trips to get there when they come out of the oven at around 11:00 a.m.

Last week, Aimee brought a bunch of the green tea donuts. It looked green; after all they are made with green tea.  I took one bite and the creamy custard oozed out of the donut.  It was delicious. The custard was not too sweet. It was just the right amount of sweetness.

I wonder if there has been a study wherein a green tea donut a day keeps the doctor away?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Little Company of Mary Hospital Cafeteria

My husband was recently hospitalized for a biking accident. He is home now recovering nicely and getting stronger everyday.  He was admitted to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, California.  He was there for 6 days and I got to experience first hand the patient's menu for lunch and dinner and more importantly, the food at the cafeteria.

Patient food was not bad at all till they ordered the soft diet, for no good reason...then everything was like baby food.  So as long as you do not have any diet restrictions as a patient, you'll be a happy camper.  A sample menu for patients: good soup (can't remember what it was) vegetables, fish, tuna salad, chocolate chip cookies.

The regular food at the cafeteria was amazingly very good. Very good that I looked forward to the meals everyday. As far as I can remember, it was always very good. When I worked across the street at the Medical Center, in the early 80's, I remember running  there for lunch and getting food to go for myself and a few of the nurses. My son volunteered there several years ago and remembered the food being good.

The first day, we had barbecued chicken and macaroni & cheese with bacon in it. I had carrots with it to make my meal healthy. The following day, they had another chicken dish with an amazing sauce served with roasted potatoes that had a lot of flavor. They had a chicken with an artichoke cream sauce with mashed potatoes and asparagus. One evening I wasn't very hungry so I decided to just have the tortilla soup which was very satisfying.  Another evening, I had the chicken stuffed with spinach with a cream sauce, served with collard and rice. I have never had collard before; very bitter which is o.k. but if I may suggest to the chef....bacon would make this perfect the saltiness of the bacon would complement the bitterness of the collard. On our last day, I had the teriyaki tofu with glazed pineapple on top served with combination of regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions etc. etc. That was sooooo goood!


I told my friends that visited to get some food to go....price was right and the value was great.  We couldn't get over how good everything was.  Someone mentioned that the food at Torrance Memorial Hospital is quite the opposite.  So if you have a choice of hospitals, go where you can have gourmet meals.

I tip my hat (if I were wearing a hat) to the talented chefs of Little Company of Mary Hospital.    The big question is: are they on

Friday, September 7, 2012

Viva Lunada Bayhouse

Formerly Viva La Pasta but now a totally different restaurant, Lunada Bayhouse located in the beautiful Palos Verdes Peninsula,  is still good if not better from my last visit.

They had oysters on the shell but no oysters Rockefeller which I had previously.  I told our server how I really enjoyed the Rockefeller; she quickly vanished as she asked the chef if he could make some for us; she promptly appeared with the good news that the chef would indeed make them for us. There were 6 in our party so I ordered 2 plates.  I forgot that 2 people did not eat problem....more oysters for the remaining four.

My husband had the flat iron steak which was grilled and sliced, topped with mushrooms, crispy onions, with Merlot reduction, garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables. My cousin ordered the roasted corn and blue crab bisque which was served with garlic croutons and that was delicious.  One ordered the jumbo coconut  rum shrimp which also looked good except I don't like coconut so I didn't try it.  I had the veal piccata with capers and lemon butter. I loved my dish served with potatoes and vegetables. My vegetarian niece had the the four cheese ravioli with spinach, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and a tomato basil cream sauce. Before that, she had the warm goat cheese salad which she said was good. My other niece had the sauteed sea scallops served over baby spinach cooked in garlic, lemon and white wine. I think I might try that next time.


They have a lot more on the menu which needs investigating and investigating I must do.

Lunch at Ocean & Vine

I previously blogged about brunch at Ocean and Vine located at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica.  We had better luck at lunch.  Alma ordered the scallop chili which was absolutely delicious.  The giant scallops were tender and cooked to perfection. The chili itself had the right amount of kick.

Raymond ordered the crab salad on an avocado. This was not only beautiful to look at but delicious as well.

I on the other hand decided to have the french toast which was encrusted with nuts and had a banana filling. It looked better than it tasted. The fresh fruit that came with it was just that....fruit...nothing exciting...a bit sour. The whipped cream was there for a very good reason.

Sycamore Kitchen

Last Sunday, my brother wanted to try the bakery at 192 S. La Brea in Los Angeles called Sycamore Kitchen as they were featured in the L.A. Times recently. I also read the review where the writer raved about their kouign-amann.  He also warned the readers that there is usually a line to order.  We didn't want to have to line up so we decided to meet there before they open at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  I dragged my friend Cindy so we both had to get up early to get there by 7:30 or so.

We got there by 7:40 a.m. Nobody in site except, Gary, my brother, Cindy and I.  The place looked cute from the outside. We patiently waited till they unlocked the gate. At 8:00 they rolled open the gate. We immediately went in and ordered.  The kouign-amann was not ready and would not be ready for 30 minutes.  I was a bit upset and told them they should have it ready when the bakery opens since that was their specialty. I ordered a sticky bun and an apricot almond tart. I also went ahead and ordered 6 kouign-amann to take home. I was told that this was not allowed. Since they were not out, I could not pay for it.  That really annoyed me because if there was a line by then, I would have to  fall in line again and the cashier confirmed that.  I have never heard of such a stupid rule!  It turns out, it was a blessing in disguise.  The kouign-amann was good but not outstanding.  If you have had the best, like the one from Bouchon which isn't far from there, then you would be disappointed.  In fact, Gary suggested we go there after and we all agreed!

My sticky bun was good, the apricot almond was also good. Cindy ordered the scone. It didn't look too good but Cindy said it was o.k.  She had me try it and my suspicion was confirmed. It was dry  I asked her why she ordered that as it looked like a dog biscuit to me. Again, once you have had great scones like the ones from L'Amande Bakery in Torrance, it is hard to settle for anything less.

I don't think I will be going back to this bakery. They have a lot of other things but if the best thing they have isn't good enough for me then I will pass on the rest. The Sycamore Kitchen;s owners are the same ones that own Hatfield's and I have heard only good things about it so I am hoping I won't be disappointed when I try Hatfield's.

Like I mentioned...we did go to Bouchon and got the real kouign-amann.  Top all buttery and flaky and a tiny bit sticky on the bottom. There is nothing like it; except of course if you are in Paris and happen to stop by Pierre Herme; the only difference is the is in Beverly Hills and the other in Paris.