Sunday, March 31, 2013

Made By Meg

I read a review on "by Meg", short for Made by Meg on the Internet via an email from Thrillist.  I was so excited to find out that this little restaurant that only seats 6 was in my vicinity located at 234 S. Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach, California. 

My friend and I went to order the "Thrillist"  which was a sandwich on a pretzel roll with roasted wild mushrooms, garlic aioli and Camembert cheese. Below is the picture on the email that looked mouth watering and exciting.

The actual sandwich was less thrilling.  The mushrooms were delicious but there was too much bread. Like my friend said, it would have been better if they took a slice off the middle of the pretzel bread as it just drowned the great flavor of the mushrooms.

The other sandwich we ordered was the "Coastal Californian."  Grilled chicken with avocado and skillet bacon jam on parmesan sourdough bread.  The bacon jam was good but not enough of it; I think they are concentrating on "healthy" sandwiches; after all, they do specialize in "organic" food. For a side dish, we ordered the Fire Roasted Curry Cauliflower Popcorn. We expected the cauliflower to be crispy (popcorn) but it wasn't. It tasted like cauliflower cooked with curry; not bad but......maybe we should have ordered the Garlic, Parsley Fries.

Meg has been in the catering business for several years and has a good following. We watched her make all sorts of savory bread pudding, etc. and the place was filled  of  beautiful aromas as she created interesting inventions. 

We tried a dessert called Blondie which was made with Nutella. It was all right. The other dessert we tried was not made by Meg; it was called S'Muffins. We ordered one of those. It was a like a s'mores with marshmallow on top of a muffin with oreo cookies in them. Meg's suggestion to heat it up was perfect as the marshmallow got warm and gooey.

I don't doubt that Meg is good in what she does when it comes to catering. This hard working and very friendly chef worked hard to get to where she is currently. She was a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney for many years and went to cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena.  Just look at the testimonials at her website:

I still urge you to try the other things she has in her tiny 6 seater restaurant as there might come a time you won't be lucky enough to get a seat. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

El Paso Cantina

Mexican food is not my favorite food but don't get me wrong. I do crave the chips and salsa and blended Margaritas. Yes, there's more to Mexican food than that. Yesterday, Good Friday, the last Friday wherein we could not consume meat, Sandi and I ended up at El Paso Cantina. She found a gift certificate she's had for a long time.

This restaurant at 2404 W. Sepulveda Blvd. in Torrance has been in operation for over 30 years.  I might have been there 20 years ago but can't remember anything about it. Before we got there, I checked out the menu on the internet.  It's good to do a little homework so as not to waste precious time when you get to the restaurant.

Their chips were very good. It was thinner and tastier than the ones from Red Onion.
We ordered a dish that was from the "El Paso's Especiales"; The Sea of Cortez.  That had a Halibut filet, grilled jumbo shrimp brochette on a bed of rice, a crab enchilada served with sauteed fresh vegetables.  We were surprised to find the halibut to be delicious; flaky and very light. The shrimps were not overcooked and were succulent as should be. We also ordered the Fish Taco. There were 2 tacos on corn tortillas with lightly fried white fish (golden brown) with cabbage, pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream, also served with vegetables.

We enjoyed both entrees with our blended Margaritas. Maybe eating practically free contributed to the enjoyment of our meal...who knows? 

We decided to order the  Deep Fried Ice Cream which sounded wonderful. It was  vanilla ice cream rolled in crispy flakes (corn flakes) served on a cinnamon sugar tortilla with Mexican chocolate. It would have been a lot better if the flakes were really crispy; they were on the stale side. The shell, ice cream and chocolate sauce were good.  I guess three out of four ain't that bad.

If you decide to go to El Paso Cantina,  try and get there early since parking could be a problem. We had to go around several times and street parking was full as well. We ended up parking in the next lot.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Bento Rice Bunnies

My niece Aimee, the physician is so talented that when she's not doing surgery, or knitting intricate miniature characters and objects, she is busy creating edible surprises.

Her latest creation is just in time for Easter. She made some Bento Rice Bunnies which she decorated with peppercorn and some chili flakes.

She also made some Chili and Beans which was a nice pool for her bunnies to go swimming for Easter.

There you have it.  Bunnies do have a lot of fun on Easter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roasted Asparagus with Lemony Bread Crumbs

This recipe from Food and Wine magazine is one of the best asparagus recipes I've ever had.  It calls for anchovies; some people don't care for it but if they are not allergic to it, I bet they will be unable to detect its presence. I cut them into little slices and it practically dissolves in the olive oil. I have included the link to the recipe below:

This was to be my main experiment. The entree was secondary. I knew I had to make something to go with it so I went to Sprouts market and got some chicken breast which I cut in bite size pieces. I also bought an envelope of Sukhi's Tikka Masala Curry Sauce. The directions were easy enough. You place the chicken pieces on a medium saucepan and add the sauce and water, then simmer for 15-20 minutes.  At the end, it calls for 1/4 cup of whipping cream but I added 1/2 cup.  With all that sauce I knew it needed something starchy to absorb the extra sauce so I prepared the 5 minute Couscous you get in a box.

The end result was very good; the chicken masala was not quite what I get at my favorite Indian restaurant Ocean Tava, but this was a good substitute. The asparagus was outstanding, especially when you added a mound of the crunchy lemony, salty topping.

I can think of other ways to use this great topping....on top of any roasted vegetables, baked potato, even as a sauce to a pasta cooked with truffle oil....possibilies are endless.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Parmesan Chicken Cutlets

I got this recipe from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. I decided to make it this evening for dinner. Here's the link to the recipe:

It seemed fairly simple. When I glanced at the ingredients, I was happy to realize that I had all the ingredients.  So I proceeded to prepare the eggs, parmesan, panko; then I discovered that I did not have mustard powder! I saw the word mustard but didn't see "powder".  As I looked at my disorganized pantry, the only powder I found was chili I sprinkled some of the chili powder (not much).

I am happy to report that the cutlets turned out pretty good.  I squeezed some lemon on it which made it even better. Served it with Uncle Ben's Wild Rice which was a perfect side dish since it took only a total of 10 minutes to prepare.

Moral of the story:  Read your recipe carefully; if you lack an ingredient....improvise....then pray.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Max's Fried Chicken

Ask any Filipino about Max's Fried Chicken and chances are they will tell you how "sarap" (delicious) it is. Growing up in the Philippines, I have always known about it but what's funny is I have absolutely no recollection of having been to the restaurant.  I called up my brother and asked him if remembers our family dining there. He does remember. Oh well, I guess it's out Gary, you are only 3 years younger.

Yesterday was my lucky day. Our Filipino friends invited us to Max's Restaurant at 313 W. Broadway in Glendale, California.  I was excited. At long last I will be able to experience this fried chicken.  We got there mid afternoon which was nice as they were not busy.  The menu was extensive. They had so much stuff that I didn't know what to order.  The decision got easier when we saw A,B,&C specials for half a table which was for 5 people and full table for 10 people.  We decided to go for the half (although we were only 4), not a problem. For $77.00 we would get the soup of the day which was Tinola; chicken broth with chunks of chicken and vegetables, Max's fried chicken, Pancit Bihon (rice noodles) with vegetables and shrimps, Filipino bistek (beef steak) with onions, Lumpiang Shanghai (eggrolls) and of course steamed rice. All Filipino meals have to be eaten with rice. This also included choice of soda and a caramel bar.

The soup was very good. We all loved it. The fried chicken was also good; crisp as we dipped it in Mafran sauce which is a banana ketchup (a bit sweet) but I must say that it was not exceptional. The pancit was o.k. and the bistek's sauce and flavor was excellent though the meat was a bit tough. The lumpiang Shanghai, one of my favorite dishes did disappoint. It didn't have shrimps which I love. It only had pork and vegetables.  A friend of mine, Ramon used to make this and it was absolutely delicious so I guess I got spoiled.

The caramel bar satisfied my sweet tooth but only because I was to full to order anything else. My friend ordered a Halo-Halo ; translated mix-mix.  It's a Filipino dessert with all sorts of sweet beans, flan, sweetened coconut, banana, with regular vanilla ice cream of Ube ice cream (purple) served with lots of finely crushed ice with milk.  I am picky when it comes to Halo-Halo. I only like certain things in it. 

I can now cross out another restaurant from my list of  restaurants I have to try. The good news is I may not have dementia.  The reason I don't ever remember going to Max's Restaurant when I was younger is... it just didn't make an impression.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Good Old El Torito Grill

Last Friday, we found ourselves looking for another place to eat wherein we could order something other than meat as we are currently still in the Lenten season.
We ended up at El Torito Grill in Torrance.

My friend has never had their famous Fire Roasted Tomato Soup. This is something not to be missed.  I couldn't talk her into ordering it as she didn't like tomato soup.  I think she imagined it to be a boring soup tasting like tomatoes; almost like a watered down tomato sauce. I ordered a cup and I was determined to have her try some.
She absolutely loved it! The soup is a bit spicy and creamy and just yummy as I have said in my previous blog. This combined with their (all you can eat) homemade tortillas with honey butter would be a nice lunch. This was dinner though, so I ordered another specialty, which was the Tableside Romaine Salad. This salad used to be served as a big chunk of Romaine, but now, it is served tableside and our server, Tadeo eagerly and enthusiastically cut the big chunk of lettuce and mixed it with some tortilla crunch, roasted pepitas, cotija cheese their housemade creamy cilantro-pepita dressing. It was just as good as when I used to order it all the time in the early 90's.

For our entree, we ordered the sea bass with rice and vegetables. The sea bass was nice and fresh; quite edible. We could have had dessert but we did a good job in restraining ourselves.  We thought a little sacrifice was in order before the Lenten season comes to an end.

El Torito Grill has a nice Sunday brunch and Happy Hour on weekdays. Check out their website:

Monday, March 18, 2013


Mille-Feuilles; fancy name for Napoleons.  I recently bought a bunch of these Napoleons at L'Amande Bakery. They didn't have my favorite, the salted caramel Napoleons so I settled for the regular ones.

I have to say that they are the best Napoleons. For the longest time, I would buy the Napoleons from Petit Casino in Redondo Beach but they are no longer there. They were good (the best in the area) for a long time till it was introduced recently at L'Amande in Torrance. You cannot beat the flakiness and the the perfect combination of the not-so-sweet custard. 

I was not able to eat all 5 of them so I decided to keep them for the following day and perhaps another day.  Ana, the chef and owner will probably have palpitations when she reads this. Sorry Ana, but there's a happy ending to this story.

If you should find yourself with leftover Napoleons (regular or salted caramel) I found that the key is to not close the lid of the box it comes in. From the time I bought them, I kept the box open and put them in the refrigerator with the plastic box wide open.  I had one the following day and the 3rd day and believe me was crispy and still flaky.  Of course, I will not argue that the best time to have it is the same day BUT, I am happy to report that it is still delicious the following day. Pictured is the 3 day old Mille-Feuilles; notice how flaky (not at all soggy).

This is my happy ending!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Easter Bread

Easter Bread or I call it Rainbow Bread is coming to L'Amande Bakery on March 30 and 31 just in time for Easter.

The loaf  of pain de mie is lightly colored outside but when you slice it, you find a beautiful array of colors (unflavored) that is guaranteed to put a big smile on anyone's face!

I don't want it just for Easter. I can use this bread all the time.  It will make a nice present for anyone; when you're invited for dinner or perhaps a nice addition to your brunch, an exciting french toast, a sandwich cut in quarters for hors d' oeuvres.  Just think of the endless possibilities of this beautiful loaf of bread.

L'Amande Bakery is located at 2553 Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance, California, in the Rolling Hills Plaza across from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Best Tarte Tatin

This very well could be the Best Tarte Tatin in the world.  Just like I have found the best tiramisu in the world (La Giostra in Firenze) ... this tarte tatin is coming close to home; that is if your home is in Southern California.

I have had many tarte tatins in France and here in the United States. This is by far the very best. For those who are not familiar with this dessert; it is an upside down apple tart made with caramelized butter and sugar and probably something else I don't know about. It originated at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, 100 miles south of Paris in the 1880s.  Stephanie Tatin, one of the sisters running the hotel came to make this dessert apparently by accident and when she served it to their guests, the all loved it and the rest is history.  Thank God for Stephanie.

I was again privileged to try the tarte tatin that will be sold at L'Amande Bakery in the near future. I got home and immediately put it on a plate but admired the beauty of it before I even got a fork. It was still warm. I wanted to eat it with some whipped cream but both Ana and Gonz begged me not to, at least on my first one. I must warn you that you have to almost wear ear plugs as it made a lot of noise when I tried to cut a piece. The noise was the sound of the layers of crunchy and flaky pastry.  The apples were plump and just ******* delicious. Can't think of the right word to describe this masterpiece!

We are all familiar with the saying: "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away."  I wouldn't mind having this apple everyday.  L'Amande Bakery is located at the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance, California.  Soon there will be another one in Beverly Hills. In the meantime, I thank God for Ana!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Porto's Bakery & Cafe

I happened to be in the vicinity of Porto's Bakery last week with a friend. We had another engagement and we were early so Konnee suggested we stop by Porto's around the corner. I have  previously had their Cheese Roll, which they are famous for, and the Meat Pie.

It was a cold evening in Glendale, so I thought I could buy a few items and keep them in the trunk of my car. There was a loooong line just to order.  It was finally our turn so I got a few of the cheese rolls, meat pies, potato balls TM stuffed potatoes and mango empanada. 

I didn't have any of these till very late that evening. The cheese roll was very good and so were the meat pies.  What was REALLY delicious was the potato ball.  Heated, it was crunchy outside, soft inside with the mashed potatoes and the seasoned ground beef then it was later fried to golden brown.

For dessert, I ordered the mango empananda.  The mango filling was delicious, however,  I found the empanada part too doughy and heavy.  I think it would have been perfect with a flaky dough.

Porto's have several locations in Southern California. There is one in the city of Glendale, Burbank and Downey. They have an array of pastries, cakes, sandwiches, empanadas, salads, soups and a few other specialties. I need to go there a few more times to get the real feel of Porto's.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Black Bear Diner

This coffee-shop diner is a franchise with 56 locations. It originated in Mt. Shasta and found its way into Torrance, California. The old Bob's Big Boy on Pacific Coast Highway is now Black Bear Diner.

We ended up there last week as I picked up a friend from the airport. It's a cute place typical of any coffee shop. It has a lively atmosphere with mostly young kids and families.
We ordered a Tortilla Soup with Corn Bread to start. That was quite good, reminiscent of Marie Callendar's corn bread though not as light.

For our entree, we had the Bear Paw as oppose to Big Foot, Chicken Fried Steak served with a choice of potato and vegetables. I had the baked potato and for vegetables, they had asparagus and mushrooms. The chicken fried steak was not bad; what you would expect it to taste like; the mushrooms were really good.
The other dish which sounded more exciting was a Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken. This was a skinless breast stuffed with broccoli, bacon and cheese filling then wrapped in bacon and finished with a broccoli Hollandaise sauce. This should have been superb with all the bacon and sauce, was not. They made a mistake and brought us the bigger serving with 2 chicken breasts.

We were too full to try any of the desserts. I just took a picture, so the next time we crave for pies we can always check them out.

Big Bear Diner is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it's good to know they open at 6:00 a.m. till 10:00 p.m. and on weekends, until 11:00 p.m.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Mac-Attack

After watching an event at the Saban Theater yesterday, we knew we had to eat as hunger did strike! It was mid afternoon. Too late for lunch and too early for dinner. Most restaurants don't start serving till 5:00 p.m.

Sandi had the bright idea of going to Canter's Deli on Fairfax.  We didn't know where and how far it was from the theater. No problem; just googled the address and programmed it in my GPS.  At around 3:30, we were at the parking lot of Canter's.

The last time we were there, we had the Brooklyn Ave. which was a corned beef sandwich with coleslaw, Swiss cheese, Canter's Russian dressing on rye bread with a side of potato salad. We had to have it again so we split that sandwich. We thought we should split a salad or a side when Sandi asked me about Macaroni and Cheese. That sounded good. Shortly after reading it, she realized it was a sandwich. It was called The Mac-Attack; described as grilled macaroni and cheese with chopped bacon, sharp cheddar cheese on sourdough. We were curious and intrigued. It came with potato chips. When the sandwiches were delivered, we attacked the Mac-Attack which is appropriately named. It was so good....the mac and cheese with the bacon and sharp cheese all came together on the grilled sourdough.  I asked the waiter if they've always had this and he said: "No, it's new on the menu." Who would have thought to make something so simple into a sandwich?
The corned beef was delicious as ever. The meat sliced paper thin then layered piled high and just tender as can be.

Otto did not order a meat sandwich as he says he can't possibly open his mouth that wide. So he opted on an Open Face Brisket with mashed potatoes and gravy on challah egg bread. I tried a bite of it and it was so-so...though he seemed to enjoy it. Give him anything with mashed potatoes and gravy and he's a happy camper.

If you're ever in the area of Fairfax in Los Angeles, stop by Canter's Deli and attack the Mac!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Damon's Steak House

Zagat describes this 75 year old tiki bar and Polynesian themed steakhouse in Glendale, California as a restaurant that delivers "good" cuts (steak) and strong Mai- tais. I wouldn't know and can't confirm as I didn't get to try the steak as it was a Friday in Lent. 

There were 4 of us that dined there last night. You may wonder how we ended up at a steakhouse?  The answer is that we had tickets next door to see the play "Crazy for You".
The person who suggested the steakhouse did order a big chunk of prime rib. Two of us catholics tried to dissuade him to order something else. The friend who shall remain anonymous, ignored our suggestion. Bless him Father, for he really has sinned.

Konnee ordered the fried oysters for an appetizer which was quite good with whatever dip it came with. We all had the family style salad which also was good with a lot of crunchy stuff in it. I did recognize the celery in there. The rest was a mystery to me.

Konnee ordered the Tagliolini Seafood Pasta. I managed to try it and did like it though it was not aldente.  My husband (not catholic) ordered the Chicken Tenders and I had the Grilled Mahi-Mahi which came with the twice baked potato.

Though we were all full, we managed to order 2 desserts. One was your typical "Mud Pie" which was coffee ice cream with oreo cookie crust. The other one was called "Moon Pie" It is a cookie with ice cream and marshmallow cream, then fried and served with more ice cream and caramel sauce. This was surprisingly good.

Damon's Steakhouse is not what I would call "gourmet" dining but it is well worth your time to visit this landmark where you can still get steak for a reasonable price and  partake in this lively atmosphere with a friendly staff.

Funny, I did take a picture of the "sinful" steak but when I checked my picture gallery on my phone this morning, had VANISHED.....again, I pray "Bless him Father for he has sinned."