Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar Party

I had an Oscar Party last night and 3 of my friends came along with food of course, as that was the entrance fee. 

Cindy brought hors d' oeuvres: Hot Smoked Gouda Dip and a Parsley Scallion Hummus both from Whole Foods. Both dips were very good. She also brought a Rosemary Toscano Cheese from Trader Joe's.

Sujata brought Samosas which she made. For those of you who don't know what they are; Samosa is an Indian appetizer made of potatoes and peas and rolled in a dough then deep fried.  She had 2 sauces that went with it, a mint sauce and date sauce which was a bit sweet and spicy. She also brought some Vodka Jello Shots!  Those were really strong.

I wanted them to try the Blueberry Pesto Pizza I recently blogged about so that is what I made. I had planned to make a salad but they all objected to that as everyone was so full from the appetizers.

For dessert, Sandi brought her homemade Blueberry Sour Cream Pie and White Chocolate Lime with Graham Cracker Crust and strawberries on top. Both were outstanding.

No one left hungry. Everyone was happy except for the fact that Jennifer Lawrence won best actress. She was good but surely she was not the best, and why may I ask did Mrs. Obama have to present best movie....what does she have to do with the movie business....the answer is I guess obvious......Hollywood equals democrats; need I say more?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Poached Salmon at Cafe Cego's

If you have never had the poached salmon at Cafe Cegos's in Rolling Hills Estates, it is time you make a trip as it will be worth your while.  I had forgotten how good it was till yesterday when I thought I should eat healthy for a change.

It is normally served with cucumber salad but since I didn't want to overdo the "healthy", I opted for the Rosti potato which is fried and went very well with the ever so tender poached salmon cooked to perfection. This came with a green chili sauce which was creamy and yummy on the salmon.

When I was in Paris a few years ago, my brother and I went to the famous restaurant, Fouquet's at Champ-Elysees.  I ordered their poached salmon which I expected to be much better than the one I had in Rolling Hills.  Boy was I very disappointed. It was not half as good!

So when you get a chance in the very near future, stop by Cafe Cego's at 777 Deep Valley Rd. in Rolling Hills Estates. Tell them, Karina sent you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Blueberry Pesto Pizza

You owe it to yourself to read this blog even if the title turns you off.  My niece Aimee and her husband Elliot were recently in Bemidji, MN.  A friend of Elliot's family, Lynn Kistler, dreamt of this recipe. He apparently loves blueberries; so when he woke up, he lived his dream!  Aimee raved about how good it was and so far she has been a credible source.

The recipe is very simple. It calls for the store bought Boboli Whole Wheat crust, soaked blueberries in maple syrup (4 hours), Pesto sauce from a jar, chopped green and black olives, bell peppers, red onions, blue cheese and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

I used the regular Boboli as I forgot the recipe called for the wheat crust. I didn't find the shredded Jack cheese and was lazy to shred my own Jack, so I bought the combination Cheddar and Jack cheese.

I spread the pesto on the pizza crust, added all the toppings and added the cheeses last. Baked it at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes. It looked scrumptious but of course looks can be deceiving. I had my doubts. Had the first bite .............ohhhh my.....what a big surprise. It was absolutely wonderful.  The saltiness of the olives and the sweetness of the blueberries were incredible. It reminded me of a scene from a movie everyone has seen wherein the woman and man see each other from far away and then run towards each other.  The  excitement of their union is comparable to the different flavors that come together on your first bite!

I want to thank Mr. Kistler for living his dream.  Champagne wishes and here's to more gourmet dreams.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ocean Tava Ignites

You have to try this Indian Restaurant in Redondo Beach, California.  I celebrated my birthday there last year as the food has always been very good. With the new chefs, Chef Vel and Matt, the food has gotten better if one can imagine.

Cindy, Sandi and I decided to take our friend Ana there last night since she has never been there. This friend has tried to keep her birthday a secret, something I never respect. So we decided to make this a surprise birthday dinner. Cindy and I got to the restaurant earlier to have the champagne chilled and have them hide the birthday cake; a tarte tatin I ordered from Cafe Cego's. The manager, Xavier was very accommodating and gave us the VIP treatment the entire time.

While we waited for Sandi and Ana, Xavier gave us a basket of  Roasted Papadums. These are crisp Indian crackers that is great with a dipping sauce. The 2 kinds of sauces they had were: Tamarind (sweet and spicy) with a smokey flavor and a Mint sauce. I preferred the Tamarind.  These Papadums were a different from the ones we had before...these were totally addicting. Cindy and I consumed all of it including every crumb left over. We were tempted to have another basket with the Champagne but thought it would not be nice to start celebrating without the celebrant.

Sandi and Ana finally arrived and after Ana's initial surprise....we had an intensive meeting as to what we were to order and how much.  Xavier told us about the special appetizer of the day: Warm Jumbo Lump Blue Crab with cardamon, herbs and drizzled with mango sauce.  We also ordered the Onion Bhaji-Crisp onion fritters and Vegetable Pakoras-mildly spiced vegetable fritters fried and dipped in garbanzo bean batter. The tamarind sauce went well with all the fried appetizers.

For our entrees: Ana and I shared the Chicken Tiki Masala and Chicken Tava Special. These came with rice. Cindy had the Vegetable Tava Special and Sandi had the Karachi Chicken.  All of these dishes were sooo delicious, especially the fabulous sauces of the chicken. We ordered 4 different kinds of Naan: Regular, Garlic, Onion and my favorite, Olive. We kept mopping the sauces with the Naan till our plates were squeaky clean.  We also had some lentils on the side and some Raita to give our palates a break from the spices.

Xavier was so attentive that he knew when to bring out the dessert. Gerhard's Tarte Tatin was a hit. I even brought a canister of whipping cream to go with it. Sandi and I were the only ones who wanted the extra calories. Oh well.............

We had so much fun that we were there for 3 hours! Time really does fly when you're having fun.  Ana thinks her family will enjoy this place. I think so too.

Happy Birthday to Ana.......and thank you Xavier for making it an enjoyable evening for all of us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another Birthday at Lawry's

Yet another birthday celebration at Lawry's.  It has been a long time since my friend Mary and I have shared the good old prime rib at Lawry's. 
I have blogged about this restaurant a few times and I am pleased to report that it has not disappointed either of us.

Most of the servers have been there for at least 10 years, some even 50 years according to Ms. Duke, my favorite server. I first met Ms. Duke a year ago.  She is vivacious and just a lot of fun. When I made my reservation for last night's dinner, I had requested to be seated at her station. It was nice for them to honor my request.

I wanted Mary to try their shrimp cocktail so we shared one order. Then it was time to order our cut of meat.  I had the English Cut, the thin slices and Mary had the Lawry's Cut which is a thicker cut. It was her birthday so she deserved a big one!
We both had the creamed corn. Who could ever resist the creamed corn? Ms. Duke even gave us the recipe.  Mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding absorbed all the aus jus.  Just writing about it is making me hungry all over again. Not to worry as I ended up leaving a good piece to take home.  I requested more aus jus and creamed horseradish which they happily included in my bag. Mary could not finish her chunk of meat which disappointed me because Mary, skinny as can be could always eat a big piece of meat in one seating. I remember her finishing a rib-eye at Ruths Chris. It is unfortunate that I can't include a picture of Mary as she didn't want it on my blog as she is due for a hair cut and color today....I have to honor her wishes only because it was her birthday!

For dessert, Ms. Duke and the Dukettes came over to sing "Happy Birthday" to Mary and brought her a slice of their famous English Trifle.

After finishing our bottle of wine, we were so relaxed, happy and very full. We really should have had Ms. Duke join us; it's as if we have known her a long time. Till our next venture at Lawry's......Happy Birthday Mary!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Waffle Breakfast Sandwich

I am sure you have all received coupons from Jack in the Box on their fairly new Waffle Breakfast Sandwich.  Last week, after my workout at the 24 Hour Fitness, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the two for one Waffle Breakfast Sandwich. It was convenient as I didn't even have to get out of my car; just went through the "drive-thru" and placed my order.

When I got home, my husband had just made a full pot of coffee as I announced I had breakfast for us.  This was not his type of breakfast but when I told him it cost me $3.05 for both, he changed his tune.  The sandwich has a fried egg, American cheese,  and sausage patty between 2 lightly sweetened maple waffles. I took my first bite and thought it was good but lacked something.  That something was a bit of good maple syrup.  I drizzled some on top of the waffle and that made it perfect!

This is not a replacement for the many other croissants, omelets, or croque madame's you could get at the nearby L'Amande Bakery, but once in awhile its good to experiment on something inferior (for lack of a better word).

The good news is this sandwich has 18 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber (better than nothing). Now for the bad news: 470 calories, 33 grams of fat, 269 grams of cholesterol!  I didn't know this at the time or I would have doubled my dose on Lipitor.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Food Trucks on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day started out with my friend Mertz, bringing me a rose and a jar of her famous apple butter. Nice!

My friend and partner in crime Sandi and I decided to have dinner in Rolling Hills Estates where the food trucks were parked starting at 5:30 p.m. last night. We got there shortly after 6:00 p.m. and the line at Cousins Maine Lobster Truck looked like a mile long. I was excited to see the Ludo truck next to Cousins.  I have always wanted to try anything cooked by the famous  French Chef Ludo Lefebvre who has won numerous cooking awards. So, while Sandi lined up at the Lobster truck, I also fell in line at the Ludo truck. Sandi ordered the warm Lobster roll which we have had and loved, plus the lobster tail on a skewer. I ordered the Buttermilk chicken with Bearnaise sauce and the 2 piece Crunchy Chicken Strip with the honey mustard sauce.  They were out of fries so I ordered the cole slaw. While waiting for my order to be called, I ran to the Tornado Potato truck and got the Truffle Potato.  The guy told me it was just lightly salted so he suggested I add a little more.  I added a lot more and saw this big plastic bottle of Ranch dressing which I squirted all over the potato......hmmmmm..the Best!

All the tables were full and there was no place to sit so we decided to eat in Sandi's van. I had to balance the various chicken and lobster on my lap while pulling the potato apart . The buttermilk chicken was way better than the crunchy chicken strips which we thought was dry. The 2 sauces, Bearnaise and Honey Mustard had the same flavor. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn't be able to tell which was which? The coleslaw was terrible. It was a bit spicy (which is fine) but it was also sour. We had a bite each and that was it. So, the verdict is we were really not impressed with Ludo.  He may be a great chef, but chicken ain't his thing.

The Lobster roll was terrific. It was as good as we remembered it to be. The tail on the skewer was a bit dry. We both recommend sticking with the rolls.  Next time we go, we will definitely be there as the trucks open for business to avoid the long lines which takes away from the eating pleasure.

To end Valentine's Day, Sandi presented me with a nice bouquet of flowers. Girlfriends are the best.....thank you Mertz and Sandi.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Faux L'Entrecote Steak Frites

If you've ever gone to Paris, you may have been to Relais de l'Entrecote where they have the ever so addicting steak with french fries. This is mainly what they serve, they might have something else but nobody ever talked about anything BUT the steak.

They steak is cut in thin slices and swims in this fantastic sauce. The fries are addicting as well.  We first discovered the restaurant in the early 90's.  At that time, you could have as much as you wanted for $20. Since good things don't last forever; after several years, up to the present time, you could only have 2 servings....the 3rd serving is not free; you will have to pay extra and it is no longer $20!

Since I can't go to Paris as often as I would like, I tried to duplicate this dish. The result was not too bad. I first sprinkled course salt on the filet mignon's then cooked them in butter and set them aside. I then added beef broth, wine, mustard to the pan, added some whipping cream and seasoned the sauce with more salt and kept tasting it till the everything was well balanced.  I thickened the sauce with cornstarch.

I served this with store bought Ore-Ida frozen fries. It's always a good idea to make an abundance of sauce so you could pour it all over the fries. I also had a salad on the side for good measure.

Dessert had to be bought. It was an easy choice; Pear tart from L'Amande Bakery. Everyone loved it....they were all happy campers.

If you have no plans to visit Paris in the near future, you can settle for New York. They do have L'Entrecote at 590 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan. It's the next best thing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Capicola's Gourmet Sandwich

Last Friday my friend and I could not decide where to grab a bite to eat for something light.  It was suggested that we try Capicola's Sandwich Co. at 3160 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Torrance, California.

We were overwhelmed by the menu. There were more people behind the counter than the dining room.  It looked a bit chaotic and disorganized. They had pastries that looked very good. They had soups, salads and of course, sandwiches . We ordered the Tomato Bisque Soup and the Chicken with Rice Soup.  They serve their soups on a "to go" carton like the ones you get at the supermarkets. The tomato soup was very salty and I do like salty but I ended up just having maybe 4 tablespoons of it. The chicken had a few pieces of chicken and hardly any rice.

The sandwich we ordered was the GTS-800 Panino (sounds like a new model of a car) which had goat cheese, turkey, spinach, caramelized onions and peppers....though the peppers were invisible. The meat was good and so were the onions and cheese but somehow, the execution was not there. One thing that bothered me was when I was chewing on the sandwich , I hurt the roof of my mouth several times. Was it the bread? I don't really know. I just know I kept saying: "Ouch".   We were both disappointed that even if the desserts were tempting in the beginning, we lost faith and thought that if our sandwich and soups were not good, the desserts may just be all looks.

I may go back to try the desserts but not anytime soon; maybe I'll wait till one of my friends go and try them...let Mikey try it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


This restaurant in West Los Angeles is where the "beautiful people" dine. It's a hip place where the waiters are probably part-time handsome actors. In fact, I couldn't help overhear this lady tell her server: "You look much better in person than on  television."  He was the guy that sat us and talked about the menu. He did not look familiar to us.

The ambiance is totally for romance. Everything is white and silver with some crystal chandeliers; the tables illuminated by candles.  The only distracting part was the tables were very close together that you end up eavesdropping on your neighbors.
Lucky for us, we had 2 ladies from Seattle that engaged in our conversations as we compared our entrees and traded stories.

We ordered the fried Goat Cheese Balls with Cucumber Salad and Mango Sauce for an appetizer. Those were very good although the sauce for the other appetizer we ordered would have gone much better with it. The second appetizer we ordered was the Chicken & Shrimp Steamed Dumplings with a Sweet Thai Chili Sauce. This was an excellent choice. We both loved it and with an abundance of the wonderful sauce, we swiped some of the salty goat cheese onto the sweet chili sauce. Great combination!

For our entree, I ordered the Charbroiled Rib Eye Steak with Peppercorn Wine Sauce.
That was tender and quite tasty.  This came with a choice of sides. I could not decide if I wanted mashed potatoes or french fries. The "actor" said: "The mashed potatoes, definitely." The mashed potatoes tasted like the ones you get from a box without being doctored. I have made mashed potatoes from a box and when I added lots of butter and some whipping cream, it turned out pretty good.  The brussels sprouts were not bad.
My friend had the Veal Milanesa Napolitana with Mozzarella Cheese an Tomato Sauce. That was very bland but was edible.

Our neighbors were not pigs like us...One ordered the Golden & Red Beet Salad with Blue Cheese, Pecans and a Dijon Dressing. It looked good and she confirmed our assumption. Her niece just ordered a salad as well; Belgian Salad with Endive, Caramelized Pecans, Gorgonzola Cheese with a Honey Pear Vinaigrette. It looked good though I  had to take her word for it.

My friend and I both decided on the Crepes with Dulce de Leche.  By the time it arrived, we forgot what filling it was supposed to have.  The crepes looked very unappetizing. It looked DRY; and dry it was.  The filling tasted like chocolate but not a good tasting chocolate.  It was gummy. We both could not even finish one small crepe. My friend ended up passing her plate to our neighbor to try it and her comment was it tasted like a thick pudding.  I don't know where the "dulce de leche" came in....I think if it came went straight out the door.

Most of the pictures I took were overexposed from the flash so I did not include them in this blog except for the Crepes so you can get an idea of how boring it looked. Looks are very important, especially if they put a lot of emphasis on the beautiful staff.
I am including the link to this restaurant so you can see for yourself the ambiance, the staff and their menu.

To the delightful ladies from Seattle, I forgot to tell you something ... since you have my email address, please drop me a note at your convenience if you wish.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sultana at L'Amande Bakery

Have you ever had the Sultana at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance? It is loaded with raisins and is crispy outside and flaky throughout.  I don't consider myself a "raisin lover" like my brother, but I am totally hooked on this one.

I've always found it to me moist inside; never dry.  I just discovered today that it has a very thin layer of custard inside. That is the secret....well, it's no longer a secret!

To get the maximum benefit, you really have to pull it apart and dissect it which will contribute to your eating pleasure.  I think that eating it with a fork and knife or just biting into it takes away from the experience.

The nice thing about pulling it apart is you get to see the plump raisins all over, and raisins you get till the very center and till your last bite.

Get there at 8:00 a.m. or shortly after when you can get them just out of the oven. Trust me, it really taste as good as it looks!