Sunday, June 30, 2013

Little Sheep - Mongolian Hot Pot

This restaurant just opened at the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrance. It occupies the building of the old Sammy's Pizza.

Sandi and I were curious to see if it was any good. The only experience I know about Mongolian food is that you pile a bunch of raw meat and vegetables with their appropriate sauces and they cook it for you. 

We walked in and in about a minute or less....we walked out. There was a particular odor which was not enticing at all.  We actually could not stand it. We noticed that they had the hot soup on the table and we guessed that you had to dump your raw materials in there to cook them. I go to a restaurant to be served. If I wanted to cook, I would stay home. I was willing to try this but the strong odor made us go for the door.

In this case, curiosity really did kill the cat!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tom Celebrates His Birthday at Dominique's Kitchen

He didn't make it on my birthday so it was only appropriate that Pat, Sandi and I take him to Dominique's so he can experience what he missed.

I ordered the Cheese Fondue for 4. I am not a cheese fondue fan but when I had the one from this restaurant previously, I became an obsessive follower. It is made with French Gruyere, Swiss cheese, white wine and some brandy. This is served with pieces of French bread. Take my word for is addicting.  We all couldn't stop eating it. You have to work for it though; you are given a fondue fork, you stab the bread, dip it in the bowl and if all goes well, you stick in in your mouth and are in ecstasy.  Then again sometimes, things don't work out too well. You stick your fork in with the bread and the bread decides to go for a swim and you lose your there you are fishing for your piece. I think the best uninterrupted way to enjoy this is to have a big fat slice of bread on your plate and have a little cup of the fondue so you can pour as you go.

We knew that the Fondue would be a bit filling, so everyone declined to order soup or salad. Tom, the birthday celebrant ordered the Braised Short Ribs and he was quite happy with it. He inhaled everything but left the plate!  Pat had the Scottish Salmon which was too much for her so she ended up taking some home. Sandi and I split an order of Scottish Salmon and the Macaroni Gratin.  The salmon was nice and fresh and the Macaroni Gratin was just heaven.  I believe this was made with 2 kinds of cheese as well.  It was perfect  with our salmon.

Dessert  was shared among the four of us. We ordered the Floating Island, Chocolate Mousse and the Passion Fruit Crème Brulee.  Everyone was happy as we all shared everything.

The four of us are still in the process of burning the calories we consumed last night. It was a fun evening  and as usual, Liza and Dominique came by to make sure we were well taken care of.

Dominique's Kitchen was featured recently on Westways, the AAA magazine. Since then, they have gotten busier.  I congratulate them on their continued success.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hinoki and the Bird 2

This was my 2nd time at Hinoki and the Bird.  Couldn't wait to go back so I did with some relatives last Tuesday. They wanted to celebrate my son Erik's birthday. There were 6 of us; none of them have been there before so I felt like a guide to a new set of college students entering the university.  They were in for a treat.  The last time I was at Hinoki was also a celebration in April. See my last blog on the items we ordered.

Of course we ordered some of the plates we ordered previously as they were too good to pass. We had the wonderful Calamari, the best Beef Tartare ever, the Caramel Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly, and the impressive Hinoki Scented Black Cod.

We had some new items (I've never had):  We started with 2 orders of different varieties of fresh oysters. I loved all of them...not that I ate all but could probably have eaten all.
We had some of the yummy Lobster Rolls and the Chili Crab Toast with spicy cucumbers. Don't let the spicy fool you; its really not that spicy. You have to try this as it is absolutely delicious. The Tomato Salad was nice with sweet tomatoes and creamy Burrata cheese.

Some of us ordered full entrees and I got to sample all of them.  The Scottish Salmon was so tasty that I would probably order that next time.  My cousin loves white rice so he ordered some on the side to go with his salmon. 
My niece had the Hinoki Scented Cod which was a no brainer; super good. Elliot had the Caramel Braised Pork Belly and I had the Apple Marinated Short Rib. (All of which I had previously and pictures are on previous blog)

Erik ordered the Coconut-Curried Mussels with Sausage and Cauliflower. That was delicious with lots of the coconut juice which was great when you dipped the thick burnt toast in it.  Otto had the the Miso Marinated Skirt Steak which came well done though he ordered medium rare. Daniel, our very attentive server apologized and happily replaced it.

Dessert was exciting. I would have ordered the Shaved  Mint Ice with Coconut Gelee, Nata de Coco (which I love), and Black Sesame Praline except it had coconut chunks  in it. There were several flavors of Mochi; Miso with Butterscotch, Chocolate with Curry Caramel and Dulce de Leche with Toffee, Cajeta. I had the Chocolate which was good but when I tried the Dulce de Leche.....that took the I ordered one; it was the BEST of them all. Someone else had the Cotton Cheesecake with Rhubarb, Raspberry cream and Strawberry Yogurt Ice Cream.  My husband had to have the Devil's Food Cake with Guayaquil Mousse, Pralines.  For Erik's birthday, they brought out something special just for him.

Nick Moore, the manager came by several times and Beverly, our old or should I say previous server also came by to say hello which made me feel like part of the family. Tomorrow, my brother Gary is taking Erik there for dinner for his birthday. I was not invited (don't know about this family), so I guess I will have to plan my 3rd trip with some friends.

L'Amande's BLT

This is not your ordinary Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich. It is neither your elaborate BLT wherein there is so much stuff in there that you hardly recognize what you're eating.  This is a very simple yet sophisticated grown up BLT.

I first had it a few days ago when I wanted to get something to take home. I was in for a shock. The sandwich had a few interesting flavors.  There were of course your usual ingredients of lettuce, tomato, and  smoked applewood bacon in a pain de mie (bread).  I was able to detect a bit of mustard and something sweet which I just loved with the bacon. I later found out that the sweetness came from dates! They were probably pureed; I don't know and don't really was just super delicious.

L'Amande Bakery at the Rolling Hills Plaza  in Torrance, added a bunch of new items to their menu and this was one of them. It looks like I will have to do my usual investigation to find out what else I can't live without.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fanoos - Persian Restaurant Grill

I guess I have been living a sheltered life; I have never been to a Persian Restaurant until now.

My friend Ana has been to Fanoos in Torrance so when Sandi and I decided to try the food, I thought it would be a good idea to ask her what we should order. We took her advise. We ordered the Beef Koobideh, described as two juicy strips of charbroiled seasoned ground beef. The portions looked humongous so we decided to split an order but ordered extra rice. You have a choice of rice and Ana said she liked the one with the berries.  Zereshk Polo which is Basmati rice mixed with barberries (looks like baby cranberries), topped with saffron.

We also ordered the Maust' Khiar which was a combination of yoghurt and chopped cucumbers flavored with dill. This came with pita bread. It was delicious and refreshing. Ana also mentioned she liked to put this over her meat, so that's what we did and boy was she right on the money.  It was like Fred and Ginger. For the young ones, google Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They were a perfect pair.

The extra order of rice was enough to feed 4.  I was the only one that dipped into that plate, (surprised?) so it was only fare that Sandi take the rest home!

Fanoos is open for lunch and dinner. They are located at 25336 Crenshaw Blvd. (corner of Crenshaw and Airport Dr.) in Torrance, California.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Food Trucks Revisited

Pretty much last minute yesterday, as Jodi my hairdresser and I were talking about our favorite cupcakes from "My Delight Cupcakery", I had and urge to go visit the food trucks on Western Ave. in Lomita.  I immediately sent a text to Sandi  to find out if she was free and interested in checking out the trucks. I got a reply almost before I could send the text; it read: "I'll pick you up at 5:00 p.m.."

And so went....we were there at 5:15 p.m. and there were only 6-7 trucks when we arrived. My Delight Cupcakery was there and that just made our evening; anything else was secondary.  We thought it wise to have some dinner so to speak before dessert.
Kogi BBQ was our pick. We ordered the #1 Combination Tacos (you get to pick 3). We had the choice of Calamari, Short Ribs, Spicy Pork and Chicken. I ordered the first 3 and Sandi had the short ribs,  spicy pork and chicken. The calamari was almost too spicy for was HOT but tolerable. I loved it; mind you this was not your regular crispy calamari so Sandi wasn't as excited as I was and it was too hot for her. The short ribs were full of flavor; it was delicious and better than the spicy pork.

I must tell you that before we consumed our tacos, we each bought our stash of 6-8 cupcakes to take home. We had positioned ourselves in front of the cupcake truck. How convenient is that? After our meal, I looked at the cupcakes on display and one caught my eye. The Caramel Cheesecake.  Sandi and I don't even like cheesecake but this looked too good.  I bought one to split.'s a caramel cake stuffed with velvety caramel frosting with light cheesecake mousse then drizzled with more caramel and edged with buttery graham cracker crumbs.

After that mouth watering dessert, Sandi ordered me to check out Street Kitchen which had an interesting menu. As I walked by, I had to ask the manager, Brian if this Street had something to do with Street Restaurant which I did not like at all. He told me I was the second person to ask him that. They were not related to that restaurant. I studied the menu and saw one of the specials which was Lobster Grilled Cheese. It looked good with the thick bread and avocado with bacon bits and of course chunks of lobster. Had to order one which Sandi and I split. That was very rich and very good. I thought a sharper cheese would have made it better but then again, it might have lost the lobster flavor so we thought it should be left as is.  After this sandwich, we stood up and left. We didn't want to tempt our taste buds further.

This morning, I had 1/2 of the Lemonade and 1/2 of the Key Lime cupcake. Those were equally delicious. The key lime was made of pound cake stuffed with key lime pie filling with a fluffy, slightly toasted meringue icing. The meringue was a bit chewy and gooey....perfect in my book. The lemonade cupcake was a buttermilk cake stuffed with creamy lemon filling and dipped in lemon white chocolate gnache topped with  zesty lemon buttercream and a cookie.

My second favorite cupcake is the Breakfast Cake which is a light buttermilk cupcake with bits of applewood smoked bacon, iced with a buttery maple frosting and topped with fresh crumbled bacon bits. I know everything sounds too sweet but it really isn't.

You might or might not ask what my favorite (first choice) cupcake is the Late Night Breakfast. This might make some people say: " EEEWWWW...Yuk!" It is the cupcake with the fried chicken on top of the cupcake. The terrible thing about this is that they only make it on Wednesdays and unless it is a Wednesday, you are out of luck unless you want to drive all the way to Ontario. That one is waffle inspired; you've heard of fried chicken and waffles...this is somewhat the same idea. It is has buttermilk soaked fried chicken on top  and it is drizzled in maple syrup. I am salivating as I type ..... Then again, maybe it is a blessing that My Delight Cupcakery isn't nearby or I would probably weigh 300 lbs.!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dylan's Candy Bar

"I felt like  kid in a candy store" ....ohhh wait.... I was in a candy store, though not a kid.  I have heard of Dylan's before but I had no idea where it was. Last week while walking along the many stores at "The Grove", in Los Angeles, I discovered Dylan's.

Wow, all sorts of candies, chocolates, toys, and anything you can imagine that has something to do with candies. They even had cute t-shirts and cut out leggings, and for dog lovers, dog accessories. What caught my attention were the chocolate covered gummy bears which I have purchased numerous times in a store nearby my house. What I got all excited about were the WHITE chocolate gummy bears. I have never seen that in my lifetime!

I also purchased a chocolate bar made by Galler Chocolatier from Belgium. This was no ordinary chocolate bar. This was White Chocolate Coffee; I have never encountered such a species! This little species cost $6.00. I must say that it was worth $6.00. The strong coffee flavor inside the sweet white chocolate was a nice combination. This one is not for you, Sandi. (she hates anything coffee-quite odd)

Dylan's Candy Bar originated in New York, with other locations in Miami Beach, East Hampton, Houston, and Los Angeles.  It is owned by Dylan Lauren who was fascinated and inspired by the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory since she was 5 years old. She also happens to be Ralph Lauren's daughter.

My only regret is I wanted to buy one of the cute little candy jars that had your name on it like: "Cindy's Candies" They had a lot of male and female names but they didn't have my nickname which is Candy. So no Candy's candy......not even Karina. They will have to work on that.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cream Puffs ala L'Amande

This past weekend was the debut of L'Amande's Cream Puffs.  I bought 6 of them and served them for dessert for my dinner guests. My dinner was only the trailer of the evening. The dessert was the main event.

These cream puffs were different as the custard was not overpowering.  When I eat a pastry with a custard filling, I usually discard 1/2 the custard as it  is usually too heavy or too sweet.  I am happy to report that I was able to consume all of the custard in the cream puff. The dark chocolate topping cracked as you bit into it or cut into it with a fork. (I tried both ways)

The secret to the success of these cream puffs....quality of all the ingredients they use. You don't have to be a pastry chef to recognize that the best quality equals the best pastries.

Below is a picture of my niece Aimee, her husband Elliot and my husband Otto; all looking very happy.

L'Amande Bakery is located at the Rolling Hills Plaza in Torrnace, California.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I attended a VIP Tasting Event at the Grove in Los Angeles today. This event featured the finest Cantonese cuisine by 3 Hong Kong Michelin-starred chefs accompanied by fine wines. My brother Gary was my chaperon. We got there early so as soon as we were registered and received our admission bracelet which entitled us to 2 alcoholic beverages each, we planted ourselves by the shade.  All the tables were in the sun which was fine if you wanted a large dose of Vitamin D plus some harmful UV rays.

The set up was nice and seemed well organized. I had a Sterling Cabernet and Gary had the Pinot Noir.  A photographer came by and asked if he could take our picture and since it was a VIP event, we happily agreed.  Each table had the menu and the name of the chefs responsible for each dish. In about 10 minutes, the servers came out with plates with a good portion of several dishes.  We were impressed by the looks of it.

Some were better than others and could have used a little sauce. The very best one was the Baked Bun with BBQ Pork.  It was light and crunchy with the most delicious pork with  a sweet and salty sauce oozing out as you bit into it.  The Siu Mai (Pork Dumplings) were also very good.

It turns out that our favorites were all made by Chef Mak from Tim Ho Wan Restaurant in Hong Kong. He was former chef at the 4 Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong.
The other chefs were Chef Cheng, Celebrity Cuisine and Chef Tsang form Ming Court, Langham Place in Hong Kong.  These 3 chefs were flown in from Hong Kong for this event.  I asked one of the servers if I could speak with Chef Mak. He said he would check with the people inside. A minute passed and a door opened with 2 chefs staring at me. I didn't know which one Chef Mak was so I called his name and he approached me . I started talking to him and he smiled and got a lady to translate for him. I just told him how his baked bun was truly outstanding and though the other dishes were good, his were the best; he really lived up to his title "Dim Sum Specialist". He gave me his card and I also gave him my card. I asked if I could have a picture taken so he asked me to come inside the booth. The lady took our picture; another humble and gracious chef. 

What a fun day...and yet it was sad since I don't know when I will be able to have his Buns again.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Live Lobsters

A friend of ours sent us two 2lb. live lobsters in the mail.  I was excited to cook them for dinner.  I was going to serve them with baked potatoes. I intended to boil them.

The lobsters came in a box packed with ice packs and some kelp.  I guess, that is so they will feel at home while in transit. An old acquaintance once told me you can sort of anesthetize them before you cook them. I have tried it before and it seemed to work.  This time, I tried my luck and rubbed the back of the neck as they get quite active when you take them out of the box.  After a about 15 seconds, the lobster calmed down and sort of went to sleep. It was easier dunking it in the boiling water.
That was the easy part. I cooked them according to the directions that came with it.

Prepping the lobster for dinner was another story. My husband, the retired anesthesiologist, wore a pair of surgical gloves.  The lobster was too hot to handle with such thin gloves and had a lot of very sharp edges, so he added a pair of rubber gloves. I got out my little shoe hammer which is a real hammer made of cast iron, since we didn't have the proper paraphernalia.

The little hammer was a joke! So we had to get the big guns. There we were whacking and pounding away.  I felt like a member of the Gambino family.  The meat from the tail didn't look like the way you see it in a restaurant. It came out in pieces but since this was not a restaurant, I didn't care, as long as it was edible.  By the time we finished part 1, the lobster was cold.  I squeezed fresh lemons on them and dipped the numerous dismembered parts in warm butter. All of a sudden, the whole ordeal seemed worth it, delcious and succulent lobster. I guess the experience is comparable to childbirth; after the labor pains, you forget all the pain (though that's not entirely true-speaking from experience)

Part 2 was back to the sink to finish the job. The claws were the best part; very sweet and tender.

Part 3 was the clean up; what a big mess!  I now will never complain about the price of lobster in a restaurant. Amen.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We Olive Classes

Last month I talked about the experience we had at We Olive store in Long Beach.  See previous blog

Last night, 3 of us signed up for one of their classes; Salad Dressings. It was a nice intimate size class of five. The set up was interesting and exciting. Each of us had a bunch of little containers of several olive oils, balsamic vinegar, pieces of bread & cheese and some unknown mystery items. There was also an empty bowl and a miniature mixer.

The head master, Chef Gregg and his sous chef, Monica introduced us to olive oil tasting; from warming them, sniffing, and sipping with a slurp much like wine tasting except not much of a slurp when drinking wine.  We tasted buttery, grassy, peppery oils. When mixed with the various vinegar they really came into being.

We later mixed some emulsions to another one of our creations (we had a total of 3). They had some honey mustard, garlic puree, agave, honey, and salt.  They also had a bunch of cut fresh herbs if we wanted to add to our dressings. Basil, dill, thyme, chives were available. It was a lot of fun mixing the various ingredients.

They offered wine to those who wanted. I was the only one that accepted the offer. It was interesting that it looked like we were to do our tasting lessons standing up.  I asked for a stool which they did bring out though the other students declined. In the end I was the only one relaxed and sitting pretty on my stool.  Both Debra and Sandi later confessed that they should have asked for a stool.

We Olive offers different classes on Wednesdays from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. Check out their website for the schedule. They also offer 10% discount on anything in the store you buy that evening so naturally, we bought more stuff.  We Olive have several locations all over California. The one we went to was on 4725 E. 2nd St., Suite C in Long Beach (Belmont Shore area).