Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mama Terano

I have only been to this restaurant once until last night.  The first time was lunch with a friend.  I remember ordering one their specials for the day which happened to be a pork dish.  We also ordered a pasta special for the day.  The pasta didn't leave an impression though edible but the pork was tasteless and just not good. We left most of it on the plate and when the our waitress asked how everything was, we told her the truth. It clearly didn't bother her that we didn't enjoy it. She didn't bother to apologize or ask if she could exchange it for something else. This being a sign of a good restaurant eager to please their customers.

They say, time last night my friend and I decided to give it another chance.  Shortly after we sat, they brought a dish with a variety of olives. That was good.

We ordered some calamari for appetizer. The calamari was fresh and tender but was not crispy. It was also very bland, even with the marinara sauce that came with it. I had to ask for salt. Not a good way to start the evening.

We decided on 2 pasta dishes. A Penne Bolognese and Spaghetti with Anchovies. They both looked promising. The penne Bolognese was really aldente but it was not very good, also on the bland side. Even the ton of Parmesan failed to excite either of us. The spaghetti with anchovies was a bit better though we were disappointed first of all because the pasta was not hot. Everyone knows that pasta especially when it has a lot of oil has to be served hot.

Needless to say, I don't think we will be visiting this restaurant in Rolling Hills anytime soon.  I am curious how they will stay open especially if the new restaurant next door, Giorgio's does well.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Banana Salted Caramel Cream Pie

The best banana cream pie you could possibly have.  I didn't get to try these when they first sold them 2 weeks ago. I was happy that  L'Amande Bakery decided to make them again for the ones that missed it the first time.

Just imagine the flakiest crust with a bit of custard which is not too fattening since they use 2% milk, then a layer of gooey salted caramel, fresh bananas topped with only a teaspoon (but aerated) whipped cream and finished off with a low caloric chocolate. The reason I say low caloric is because you will notice the dark chocolate has lots of holes in them. The chocolate is crisp to the bite and tames the whipped cream. All these ingredients comes together like a happy family on vacation.

If you are lucky enough to read this blog tonight, Sept. 28, 2013 then head on over to L'Amande Bakery tomorrow as they had planned to have it just this weekend.  If you miss tomorrow, don't despair...I am sure they will bring back the happy family soon enough.

L'Amande is located at 2553 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Torrance, California.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Making Crepes

A chef friend of mine insisted that making crepes is very easy and that you don't need the special pan; any non-stick pan would do. To prove it, she had me and my niece over her house 2 weeks ago and showed us just how easy it was to do.
Of course, the first few we did were not easy as my niece and I were so tense. My niece even made a comment that performing surgery was less stressful.  The good news, is after flipping the 2nd crepe, it did get easier.

The real test was if I could make it on my own. Four of my friends wanted me to show them so I had them over yesterday.  I even bought the same plastic bowl and spatula my friend had. I figured that if I use the same will turn out the same way. When they got to my house, I served some hors d 'oeuvres and we had champagne. That was probably not the greatest idea because no one felt like cooking after the champagne. We started with a salad and continued with the champagne....... it was then time to start with the crepes.  I had prepared everything in advance so all we had to do was cook the crepes.  The first one looked like a disaster but was to be expected since the first one almost always is a disappointment; at least in looks. It had the most butter though as I put too much in the pan. The second one was "perfect". So everyone tried their luck with the cooking and flipping. We had some burnt ones and some really good ones. The burnt ones turned out to be more of a toasted tortilla instead of a crepe but soon, everyone got a passing grade. My husband got an F as he didn't even try to do one.

The choices for stuffing crepes are endless.  To make things simple, I opted on just plain Gruyere cheese. It was quite filling.  We waited a bit before we had dessert which was Crepe Suzette.  That was very good though it was too strong for a couple of my wimpy friends but the rest of us loved it. It had a lot of Grand Marinier and at the end was flambed with Brandy.

So, to my friend would have been proud but I must say, it is better to have someone else make it for you so one can just sit and enjoy.

Here are the happy friends shortly before getting too drunk to cook!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Belvedere

This prestigious restaurant was always  known for it's good food and excellent service. I looked forward to last week's invitation for dinner at the Belvedere restaurant located in the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.

There were 8 in our party.  We all got there earlier than our reservation so we sat at the bar and ordered cocktails. Our host asked the lady that sat us if they could take us earlier and they could not accommodate us. What was disturbing about that was there were hardly any people at the restaurant on this particular Sunday evening at around 7:00 p.m.  When we finally got to our table, we noticed an abundance of servers eagerly waiting to do their job.

I was given the honor of ordering the wine; I ordered a nice bottle of Far Niente Cabernet which was excellent. For my appetizer, I ordered the oysters which were tasteless considering there were condiments on top of them. My son had the smoked salmon on a potato scallion pancake with chive crème-fraiche. That was very good.

Someone had the truffle macaroni and cheese and he was not impressed. They had some specials that evening and my son and I ordered the same dish; chicken with lobster. When his order came, it looked slightly different from mine....his lobster was MIA (missing in action).  We called the waiter and he first insisted that my son ordered the chicken from the menu and not the special.  Then all of a sudden he (the waiter) had a change of heart, as if to say: " O.K. I guess the customer is sometimes right." He offered to bring him a side of the lobster. The dish was not terrible but surely one would expect it to taste better than something you would get at a Coco's.

One of us was a vegetarian and had the ravioli. She later confessed that it was not good.  We later wanted another bottle of wine and it took some time for us to flag someone....  it looked like they were all confused.  Another entrée was the duck with lentils; that was edible. The rest of the party ate their food but no one really commented on the food as we were all busy catching up and after cocktails and 2 bottles of wine split among 5 people, we were what you would call a lively bunch.

Dessert was not any better. They all looked good but nothing excited any of us. Someone ordered a pistachio ice cream and it took a while for her to get it. I have to reiterate that it was not a busy evening even towards our dessert.  Another observation was as soon as the waiters set the food on our table, they seemed to vanish like they were in a hurry to watch a game. Was there a game that evening?

It was not until 2 days after our dinner that I asked everyone what they thought of the food and the majority of our party (7 out of 8) did not like the food.

This was not The Belvedere we used to love. We could always count on very good food and excellent service. Gone are those days.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hinoki for Lunch

If you can't find the time to venture into Century City to this great restaurant, Hinoki and the Bird, just go for lunch. It is just as good.  The outdoor seating is the best especially on a beautiful day like it was yesterday.

Six of us went yesterday and out of the 6, two had never been there so the rest of us, old timers served as guides when it came to ordering. We shared a bunch of their little plates and everyone ordered a main dish for lunch. We ordered the 1/2 dozen oysters, which is always fresh and the best beef tartare, a bit spicy with the pickled jalapeno and some parmigiano. The salt & pepper fried calamari with ajwain-tomato jam was of course a hit. The new addition to my repertoire was the sweet corn soup with cilantro and hijiki (sea weed). That was absolutely delicious. The lobster roll on the black roll was very much enjoyed. Chili crab toast with spicy cucumber and coriander is one of my favorites; everyone loved that.

For our main entrée; my husband had the filet mignon sandwich which I didn't get to try as I was too busy enjoying my chilled ramen salad with ginger braised short rib and spiced English peas. That looked healthy in a good way because as you know, healthy is not a good word in my vocabulary. It had a lot of flavor and was an exciting dish.

Next to me was the miso marinated skirt steak with shaved turnips and chili. I have had this before and it was good with a side order of the white rice. Alma also ordered the sweet potato with sour cream and bacon. That failed to excite me as I am not a sweet potato fan. It would have been better if it was a regular baked potato.  My friend to my right ordered the monkfish with yellow curry noodle, eggplant and herbs. He was very quiet and was really into it. I was not offered to try so I graciously asked (or begged) if I could have a bite. Reluctantly, he agreed. All I can say is I have to order this dish the next time.   It was soooo good. I wonder if they also serve this for dinner?

Most of us ordered dessert. I could not remember what I had the last time and my niece reminded me that I tried her miso mochi the last time and liked it, so I ordered the miso mochi with butterscotch. Yummmm. My husband and 2 other people had the Devil's food cake with guayaquil mousse and praline. That was good but I liked mine better. Ryan had the raspberry macaron with rhubarb, yoghurt sorbet.  According to him, it was good but not great. He would have been happier with any of the mochis.

When I read my older blog on Hinoki and Bird, I forgot all about the Dulce de leche with toffee and cajeta mochi. It was the best ever. For dessert, I suggest you order the 3 different kinds of mochi as they are all delicious.

Here's the link on one of my past visits to Hinoki and the Bird.

I look forward to my next visit to Hinoki and the Bird......they are located at 10 Century Drive in Los Angeles. My GPS does not have this address. It is off of Avenue of the Stars and Century Drive is a small street next to the Century Plaza Hotel.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Locanda Positano

Instead of going to our regular Friday night dance, Sandi and I decided to explore a restaurant in Marina Del Rey called Locanda Positano. I read about one of their specialties which was Tagliatelle al Tartufo which is one of my favorite pasta dishes.

The place is easy to miss as it is small; it's right across an IHOP. We were early for our reservation which was not a problem, and they happily accommodated us. The tables are very close together and there isn't much privacy. If your intention is to propose to someone, or have dinner with someone other than your spouse, this isn't the place to go. However, if you love good Italian food and couldn't care less about anyone else, this is definitely a place to go.

When I saw the Black Truffle Pre fix menu, I knew I had to get that because the choices were exciting! Sandi felt the same way so we both ordered the same thing. Before our Antipasti, they served us bread with 3 types of olive oil; herb, spicy, and lemon. The herb was the best though they all improved in taste when I added some salt to them.

Our first course, the Bauletto Di Polenta con Porcini e Tartufo Nero. Homemade polenta with Taleggio cheese, topped with imported Porcini mushroom, imported white truffle oil and shaved fresh black truffle. This was ABSOLUTELY delicious. This was almost a meal on its own. The truffle was overwhelming but in good way. The polenta had a nice texture, creamy and gritty at the same time and crunchy on the bottom. What a wonderful dish!

By the time we finished our polenta, we were almost full. Danielle, our Italian server checked to see how we liked our polenta.  We told him we didn't like it at all as he gazed into our empty plates. Our main course was the Tagliatelle al Tartufo; homemade tagliatelle pasta (cooked aldente) served with white truffle oil and fresh black Truffle in a light cream sauce. Again, another masterpiece. I didn't even ask for Parmesan; in my book, it's called perfection.  We both could not finish it as we really were stuffed by this time so we had them wrap our left overs.

We shared the 2 desserts.  One was the Tartufo al Limoncello; lemon gelato with heart of limoncello covered with meringue sprinkles. The other one was the Tartufo al cioccolato; Zabaione cream center surrounded by chocolate gelato and caramelized hazelnut, covered with cocoa powder. The verdict was.....the Limoncello was much better. It was a bit tangy and was a perfect finale from all the Tartufo.

This pre fix was not cheap $60 per person though for Truffles, this is a bargain. When it got busy, the owner Paulo helped out and came to our table to check up on us. I have to tell you that I enjoyed this so much more than the restaurant Melisse who has a couple of Michelin stars but as you know was a big disappointment the last time I was there. This restaurant deserves a star!

Locanda Positano is located at 4059 Lincoln Blvd. in Marina Del Rey. They have valet parking for $3.50 which is reasonable, service is good and the food is great.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lovely Soft Balls

Hopefully you were able to stop by L'Amande Bakery in Torrance this weekend.
They had Salted Caramel Balls. These lovely soft balls were filled with custard and outside dripping with the nice salted caramel.

When you take your first bite, you know that this is it! The perfect custard (not too sweet) oozes out and the dough is light and a bit chewy.

The picture really speaks for itself. 

For some people who still do not know where L'Amande Bakery is.....their address is 2553 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Torrance, California.  Very soon, they will open another bakery in Beverly Hills. Meantime, we can count our blessings that we have one in the city of Torrance.

The One and Only Ramen Burger

When I heard that the "Ramen Burger" was going to be at the Mitsuwa Market in Torrance for one day and were only making 500 of them, I told Sandi we had to go. They were to start selling at 11:00 a.m.  We were there at 9:45 a.m. and the line went around the building! It turns out that some people were there as early as 6:30 a.m.

If you haven't heard of the Ramen Burger which had it's debut in New York and has been a sensation since then, it is a simple burger and instead of a bun, your burger is sandwiched between 2 ramen patties. While in line, an occasional staff member would count the people to make sure we, the people did not exceed 500. We could only buy one which cost $8.00.  We were happy to hear we were #350, so we were safe....wheww!

We were blessed with nice weather as we had a gentle breeze and we were in the shade. Thank God for that because we've been having very hot weather in L.A. with high humidity. In line we made friends with the surrounding people who drove from Orange County. Tiffany and her 11 year old were foodies as well.

At around 1:45 p.m. (4 hours later) we finally got our burgers. This was the craziest thing I have done; I dislike falling in line and have never done so for any restaurant with one exception and that was only for 10 minutes.

The burger was simple; it was topped with arugula, scallions and a secret sauce. The ramen was not dry nor too crispy. It was perfect with a hint of sesame oil. The big question you might have at this point is.....was it worth it?  OHHHH YESSSS INDEED!

I met Jeffrey, the chefs brother who introduced me to Chef Keizo Shimamoto and was kind enough to take my picture with him.

I  know there will be a lot of imitations of the Ramen Burger but I am sure nothing will top the original! So, Chef Shimamoto, please open a restaurant in Torrance; you're mom will be happy as well.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Trout from Convict Lake

Our friends Nako and Amy spent Labor Day in Mammoth in the Sierra Nevada and did some fishing.  They caught some trout at Convict Lake which is about 10 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes across the airport.

They were nice enough to share some of their catch with us. Nako suggested I fry them in bacon fat. Anything fried in bacon has to be good.  First I squeezed a whole lemon on the 3 pieces of trout. Seasoned them with salt and pepper plus some of the seasoned Lawry's salt and pepper. I then proceeded in frying 2 pieces of thick bacon cut in half. When the bacon was done, I removed them and set them aside. I added a bit of butter to the pan then placed the papa, mama, and baby trout in the pan and cooked them till they were done.

I was at Trader Joe's earlier and decided to get something easy to accompany the trout.
I ended up getting the Fettuccine with Mushrooms. They are so easy to cook; you just add water to the pan, dump the contents in the pan and cook it on high. Though this was quite good, I think the Fettuccine Alfredo would have gone better with the trout.

Thank you to Nako, Amy, Bryce and Lisa for the wonderful trout!  Don't know who actually caught our fish.....

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Labor Day 2013

The Weisswurst from Alpine Village was a hit.  I threw them on the grill and served them with 2 choices of mustard.

With the Wiesswurst, I made some red cabbage with apples and mushrooms and got some potato salad.  It was a very simple dinner.

Hors d' oeuvre's were watermelon stuffed with goat cheese, a French soft cheese with crackers, French pate, bread sticks wrapped with prosciutto and sweet grapes.

Before dinner, my guests were all happy drinking Margaritas made with our Margarator; which is the best thing ever for parties.

I cannot take any credit for dessert.  Ana brought 2 (not one) fig tart which tasted as good as it looks in the picture below and a  Portuguese rice pudding that was absolutely delicious. I've never had rice pudding before and was surprised on how rice can be so exciting. It had orange peel, pistachios, almonds and cranberries. The combination of textures made it come to life.

The best thing about the dinner was the company.  You can always have good food and great dessert but if the people are boring.......well, then it is not considered a successful party.  The fact that they stayed for 6 hours; in my book was a very good thing.