Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Olive A'Sudden

Clever name for a store that sells all sorts of olive oil and vinegar. This place happens to be in Palm Springs. Four of us walked in this store intending to just look and not buy anything. We were killing time before our reservation at Le Vallauris on our recent trip.



The four of us were like kids let loose in a candy store. The had mini vats of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the tasting. We tasted as much as we could. I was all over the place when I suddenly zeroed in on Dark Chocolate Vinegar and Espresso Balsamic Vinegar. I asked Tom how one could utilize the chocolate vinegar. He suggested topping it on ice cream or some fruit. That might be a good way of having me eat my daily fruits. I will have to figure out what I can do with the espresso; perhaps on coffee ice cream or some sweet dessert that would need a bit of coffee flavor to cut the sweetness.

I also bought a bottle of the Black Mission Fig Balsamic Vinegar. I already used this last night when I sauteed some mushrooms in butter and poured some of the fig balsamic vinegar. It was delicious; nice fig flavor that went well with the fresh trout I got from my fisherman friend.

Olive A'Sudden also carries whole olives, various sauces and dips. Plan to spend some time in the store.


The possibilities are endless when it comes to cooking with these various oils and vinegars. It is bound to bring out the inner chef in you.

Olive A'Sudden is located at 110 Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs.

Note: Thank you Tom for all your help and sorry for the confusion.....I did find my credit card in my wallet hiding behind another card!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Beware-Luna Rossa

The first time I tried this restaurant was not particularly impressive. Food was good but service was horrible. After 6 months, I tried it again and it went downhill from the last time I was there.

Just this week, I got a flyer in the mail with a 30% off coupon with a note welcoming the return of Enrico Glaudo as chef-partner at Luna Rossa.  I got excited. If you recall, Enrico Glaudo was the chef and owner of Frascatti on the hill (Rolling Hills Estates) which closed last year.

Just to make sure that he was in charge, I called to find out what the situation was: what percentage of menu is he responsible for.  I was disappointed to find out that this was not true. The lady I spoke with said it was not the case anymore.

Beware......if you got this flyer and you are eager to run to Luna Rossa at 550 Deep Valley Dr. in Rolling Hills Estates to experience once again Chef Glaudo's cuisine, you are out of luck. If you go for the mere 30% off regardless of chef, then by all means Bon Appetit!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Giorgio's

Yes, this is the same Giorgio's that was up in Rolling Hills Estates that has been closed since it caught fire. He is back  at a different location: 777 Deep Valley Dr. in Rolling Hills Estates in what used to be Cafe Cego's behind Bristol Farms.

My friend and I decided to have dinner there last week. They made changes inside, they extended the dining room in what used to be part of the kitchen. The bar looks more inviting and the decor suggested "Italian". It was nice to see a familiar face, Christian the waiter that worked previously at Cafe Cego's who welcomed us to this remodeled restaurant.

It was a bit busy and though we were told the bread was coming, we had to wait a bit before it finally arrived. This crusty warm bread was good served with a tomato dip made with garlic and herbs. Our only complaint was it came too late, that when I finished  eating a slice, our entrees arrived. It is typically nice to sit and enjoy the bread with wine before you get your main meal.


We ordered the Tris di Pasta which was trio sampler. What better way to be introduced to the different specialties. It consisted of penne arrabiata, rigatoni gorgonzola and linguini pesto. The penne arrabiata was spicier than expected. It was good, just make sure you have that wine next to you or cold water. The rigatoni gorgonzola was our favorite among the three, it had the most flavor and was not too creamy. The linguini pesto was our least favorite.  It just didn't do anything for us.


The other entree was the Fettuccine Michelangelo; sauteed onions, prosciutto, mushrooms in cream sauce with grilled chicken. This was not bad, though a bit too rich.


For dessert, we wanted something light so we had the dark chocolate ice cream served in a cacao shell or pod, something I haven't seen before. This is where the cacao comes from according to Christian. It was interesting to see this pod....ice cream itself was nice and creamy though we suggested that maybe it needs something white; maybe cream  or white chocolate to offset the very dark color. It just needed something to pop out to make it more appealing to the eye.



Giorgio's is open for lunch and dinner. The difference in price for lunch and dinner differs from $1.00 to $9.00.  The pizzas are the same price for lunch and dinner.

This is not the best Italian restaurant I've been to, though I have to say we had a much better experience than Mama Terano next door.  We would definitely go back to try the other house specialties.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lunch at Le Vallauris in Palm Springs

From an unforgettable evening at Le Vallauris, my 3 friends and I had to go back for lunch before we headed back to Los Angeles.

We had studied the prix fixe menu the night before so we were ready to order as soon as they seated us at our previous table. Willie, the maitre d' from night before came by to say hello even if he was not scheduled to work.

Paul Bruggemans came by to greet his first guests for the day. He even offered to buy us a glass of wine. He must have been overwhelmed by our dedication; first for dinner and first for lunch.

Two of us ordered the Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese, apples & pistachios with raspberry olive oil dressing. Loved this dish; the combination of the various ingredients worked well together. The other two had the Beet Gazpacho which had a beautiful vibrant color and was very pleasing to the taste buds.



For our entrees, Cindy and I had the Grilled Petit Filet with black peppercorn cognac sauce served with french fries and spinach. The filet was tender and juicy as should be and the wonderful peppercorn cognac sauce was yummy especially when poured over the very crispy fries.
Both Sandi and Sujata could not get away from the fish so they had Halibut which was cooked with honey green peppercorn and olive oil over a bed of a vegetable medley. In my excitement over my steak, I forgot to take a picture of their Halibut. You will have to take my word that the presentation was beautiful and I did have a piece of it and indeed, it was great.


For dessert, we had Chocolate Volcano with chocolate sauce and pistachio ice cream; a very rich dessert that is guaranteed to satisfy any chocolate craving. The other was the Banana Lime Parfait with caramel. That was my dessert. It was light with a hint of tartness, caramelized banana engulfed in light cream. It was heaven on earth.



Before we left for Los Angeles, my 3 friends and I were already planning a trip back to Palm Springs as this might be the closest we'll ever get to heaven.

It is interesting to note that in the Zagat Guide of 2013, Le Vallauris's score went from 26 to 28 on food and from 26 to 28 in service. Service was and is impeccable!

To Mr. Bruggemans: My friends and I thank you for an enchanted evening and a delightful lunch.
We look forward to our next visit.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Le Vallauris Still On Track

We specifically planned our trip to Palm Springs so we could dine at this restaurant. My last dining experience was unforgettable. See my previous blog: http://solittlethyme.blogspot.com/2012/05/le-vallauris.html


We arrived just as they were about to open;  Willie, the maitre d' was just putting on his jacket.   We asked to be seated outside which is the best spot. What a perfect evening to be dining outdoors. The temperature was probably in the mid 70's though they had air condition outside, they didn't need it last night. They had the prix fixe dinner but the group opted to order a la carte. The menu which they posted on a board looked exciting. Too many things we wanted to try so we decided we would try and order different entrees.


We ordered 2 appetizers to share. The fried oysters sounded enticing with the wasabi and creme fraiche sauce, and since they were fried, Sandi and Cindy approved.  The oysters were light and crispy and the sauce had just the right kick to it; not too spicy. The other appetizer was the roasted tomato with burrata. The burrata was delicate and creamy.



Sujata, Cindy and Sandi decided to have fish for their entrees.  Cindy had the Sauteed Whitefish with whole grain mustard and crispy stuff on top, we guessed that it may have been fried leeks. This was an exciting fish. It had so much flavor that had I ordered it, I would not have felt deprived. The Grilled Halibut was also nice and flaky and both Sujata and Sandi loved them; but if I had to choose my next fish dish, I would have to go with the Whitefish. I ordered the Roast Rack of Lamb with pesto sauce. This was cooked to perfection and was absolutely delicious.




Service could not have been better. There was always someone filling our glasses with champagne and someone available to tend to our needs. Willie made sure we were well taken care of.  By the time we ordered our dessert, the patio was full of diners.

For dessert, Cindy and I had to order the Grand Marinier Souffle as we remembered it to be excellent.  It still was the same Grand Marinier Souffle though it made our eyes pop out when they set it on the table. It was a huge work of art.  Sujata and Sandi both nut lovers, ordered the Pecan Pie with Bourbon Ice Cream. I had a taste of the bourbon ice cream "wow" it had lots of bourbon in it....terribly good!



Paul Bruggemans, a co-owner of LeVallauris came by see how we were enjoying our food. It was unanimous; we all loved everything and we did ask him what time they open for lunch. Right there and then we put in our reservation for the following day.

What a fun evening we had. It really was perfect in every way you could possibly imagine. Le Vallauris is located at 385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs. It would be a sin not to dine at this restaurant at least once!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Sirocco

Sirocco,  is an Italian fine dining restaurant located at the beautiful Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells. I have been there 2 years ago and loved my experience so it was not hard to decide to make another reservation with 3 of my friends.

They started us out with an amuse bouche, they gave us a beet ravioli stuffed with spinach and topped with a cream sauce. We all thought we could have eaten a bowl of these raviolis.
For appetizer we shared a caprese and a beet salad, both good. We were presented with a mixed berry sorbet to cleanse our palate before our entree.





Two of us ordered the Pappardelle Alla Boscaiola: house made whole wheat pappardelle with oyster mushrooms in a sage butter sauce. This was deeelicious with a lot of the mushroom flavor. We were surprised how we liked the whole wheat pasta since we've had whole wheat pasta before which was not good. The other pasta we ordered was the Fazzoletti Al Bolognese: house made spinach pasta cooked in a Kurobuta pork ragu. Sandi and I shared this dish as we did with the Boscaiola. This was a heartier pasta with the pork ragu which we also enjoyed.  Sujata, our dear vegetarian friend had the Malfatti: house made ricotta cheese sauce dumplings in a tomato basil sauce.  I tried it and did like it. I must say that their home made pasta is the real thing and cooked aldente. They know their pasta.




We were too full or I should say my 3 friends were too full to order dessert. I talked them into sharing an orange and thyme sorbet. We also ordered coffee as Cindy remembered that they serve coffee with a flair.  Indeed, you've never seen coffee served with shaved white chocolate, shaved dark chocolate, creme anglaise, rock sugar, brown and white sugar cubes, milk, chocolate in the shape of coffee beans and some chocolate. We had so much fun adding the different ingredients to our coffee that we even added some of the chocolate flakes on our orange sorbet.


 On our way out, we were handed a package of biscotti and as we waited for our car in the porte-cochere, we noticed a coffee and tea bar which impressed us.  It was a nice evening and we were all happy campers; this was truly fine dining at it's best.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

French Pumpkin Pie

Now that I got your attention, I must confess there is no such thing as "French" Pumpkin Pie.
This is the "French" version of L'Amande Bakery's Thanksgiving pie.

I have to tell you that I absolutely cannot stand pumpkin pie. People that know me knows what I call the pie. (Use your imagination and you'll get it)

I was at the right place at the right time today when I had the opportunity to try this pie. It is not your traditional pie that has too much pumpkin; heavy, rich or too eggy.
Let's start with the looks: the presentation is enough to get anyone excited. It is made with layers and layers of thin crust and butter of course with just enough filling of delicious pumpkin that does not overpower the taste buds, topped with toasted pecans. By the way, this is a healthy pie since it is made with vegetable (pumpkin) and nuts which are nutritious.


I can't hardly wait for Thanksgiving. I even imagined having it as a filling in a croissant that they make to perfection. They will be making a limited number of these pies for Thanksgiving so make sure you order yours soon.

You've heard of the saying " if a picture paints a thousand words..." This picture paints a zillion words. It really taste much better than it looks. The slice below is a bit flattened since it was cut while warm. We just couldn't wait!



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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Lexington Social House

Yet another voucher led us Lexington the other night. The deal included a 3 course meal with a glass of wine and dessert. The only bad experience with this restaurant was our trip from Torrance to Hollywood. I allowed 1-1/2 hrs. and it took us 2 hours mostly on the Harbor and Hollywood Freeway. I called them when I knew we were not going to make it. They were very understanding and they just told us to take our time. This is near the Pantages Theater so Sandi and I already knew where we will be dining on our next outing in the area.

They call it a social house because there is a bar slightly above the dining room and an area for drinking and socializing outside in a nice patio/garden with red sofas. Since we were there to dine and not socialize, we thought it would be nice to go back with a bunch of friends.

The warm rolls they served reminded me of the native Filipino rolls, pan de sal (sal-salt). It was soft and a bit salty and with butter, we could have eaten a lot more. We stopped at 2 each.
We skipped appetizers and decided to share a salad of Roasted Brussels Sprouts with bleu cheese crumble, candied walnuts, pickled grapes in a sherry vinaigrette. This was a generous portion that could have been shared with 3 people, but it was just delightful and too delicious that we ate everything. I wonder if the chef would share this recipe...



For our main entree, Sandi had the Roasted Alaskan Halibut, romesco "potato salad", fingerling potato, lima beans, bacon lardon, and creme fraiche dressing. I had the Grilled Flatiron Steak with heirloom carrots, cipollini onions and carrot puree. We shared both entrees like we always do. The halibut was cooked to perfection; moist and fluffy with a "clean" flavor which went well with all its company. The steak had a lot of flavor, also cooked perfectly. The cipollini onions were so sweet it almost tasted like dessert (I love desserts).



Our 2 servers, Rafael and Jaycee (forgive the misspellings) were 2 of the most attentive, lively and knowledgeable waiters. They were always available when we had questions and were constantly checking to see if everything was good.  Since this was our first time at this restaurant,  I did not know who the chef was nor how long they have been in operation. Our server sent the chef over and we were privileged to meet Chef Michael Butler. He was originally from New Jersey, moved to Florida and made his way to California. He has worked with a lot of the famous chefs including Jean George. Lexington is  lucky to have this young, humble and enthusiastic chef. We told him how much we enjoyed everything we had and promised to return.

Chef Butler picked our desserts for us. We had the Chocolate Molten Lava Cake with vanilla ice cream  and if you like chocolate this was it....the lava just oozed out upon contact with the first spoonful.  The other dessert tasted better than it looked and it looked pretty good. It was the Monkey Bread, brown sugar, pecans and instead of the banana ice cream, we had it with salted caramel ice cream. I would enjoy this anytime; having this for breakfast would be a good way to start the day.



They have a 5 course Chef's Tasting Menu for $85 which is very reasonable.  I don't think we will wait till we have a performance to watch at the Pantages to return to Lexington. Lexington is located at 1718 Vine St. in Hollywood, California.

I have to mention that even if they had music in the background, it was just that....background music....so you could hear each other and it is what dinner is all about...enjoying good food, company in a relaxing and inviting setting.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rao's

At some point  in your life, you may or may not have heard of the famous Restaurant in New York called Rao's pronounced Raiyos.  It apparently is very hard to get in a reservation as they only have 10 tables, and is open only 5 days a week and closed on Sundays.

Rao's opened about a month ago in Hollywood, California. The only experience I have had with Rao's is their Puttanesca sauce which I often buy and is available at some supermarkets. I have heard good things and everyone seemed to talk about their meatballs.


I was excited and decided to celebrate my friend Jody's birthday there. I called a few weeks ago and made a reservation for 5:30 p.m. I picked her up at 4:00 p.m. to make sure we get there on time. We did arrive at 5:15 p.m., a bit early but better than being late. We walked in and a few employees were startled to see us. They looked shocked and I did tell them we realized we were early. I told them our reservations were for 5:30 and the lady told us they don't open till 6:00 p.m.
I was irritated because I made the reservation myself with someone at the restaurant; not on opentable.com which I normally do. Then the truth came out. They admitted that they used to be open at 5:00 p.m. but recently changed it to 6:00 p.m. So they told us we could sit at the bar and have drinks while we wait. Thank You...... There was no apology but I thought this was their way of apologizing....buying us a drink.

At 6:00 p.m. we were promptly seated outside at very inviting & charming garden. It was a warm evening and was perfect for outdoor dining. We started with an appetizer of Roasted Peppers. I don't know what was in there but this is not to be missed. Jody and I loved every bite. We of course had to order the meatballs. Without thinking we both imagined meatballs with spaghetti. The 2 giant balls came (no spaghetti) but I must say that we both agreed the meatballs were moist and tender. The other entree we split was the Eggplant Parmesan. That was a not as good as expected.  It needed more flavor. In fact we asked for more marinara sauce, poured it all over and topped it with parmesan; then it finally started to come to life.






The birthday girl opted on the Tiramisu which was enough for the two of us.  That failed to excite us mainly because the lady fingers or whatever base they had in the bottom was not soaked enough therefore making it heavy.


It was a good meal, sometimes you can't expect perfection on all dishes. Lou, our waiter and "Captain" was very nice and friendly. He did ask how we liked everything and we did give him our honest opinion.
I was surprised to see that we were charged for our drinks at the bar. If I were the manager, I would have been very apologetic for the mix up which was the restaurant's fault, and the least I would have done was to buy the drinks for the inconvenience. That would have been the proper thing to do. I have to note that I did purchase a bottle of wine with our dinner. Oh well.........

Rao's is located at 1006 Seward St. in Hollywood, California.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dominique's First Year Anniversary

Dominique's Kitchen in Redondo Beach is celebrating their first year anniversary with a bang. Starting Friday, October 18 till the 21st, he will be showcasing the very often misunderstood, Escargots. He will be serving 101 ways to cook them during this time. Everyone of drinking age will be offered a glass of champagne and given a recipe to take home so you can try them at home.

Last night, I was privileged to be invited to a Media Preview for their one year anniversary. All seven of us were treated to champagne, white and red wine. Though I am a red wine drinker, I opted for white wine since it went better with the delicate flavor of the escargots.

Dominique started us with the Deep Fried Kale with Parmesan Shavings and his Chicken Live Pate.  I loved this deep fried vegetable. It was nice and crispy and perfect with the Parmesan shavings. I wouldn't mind being a vegetarian if everything was this good!


An Organic Green Soup with Escargots came next. This had a few escargots in it and I have to tell you that the texture is very similar to calamari so for people whose comment is: " Eewwww", give it a try as it is not what some think to be like oysters. They are not slimy nor briny. This soup was delicious.  Right after the soup came the Classic Escargots. This was my favorite. It was cooked in garlic and lots of butter; one word to describe this dish....outstanding!



A Mache Salad with Escargots and Portobello Mushrooms in a Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing came next. The flavors of the mushrooms went well with the escargots. After this came another wonderful dish, Crust of Escargots with Brie Cheese. Oh sooo creamy and yummy.



The last dish was the Home Style Roasted Escargots and Fingerling Potatoes. Again, cooked in something....don't know exactly, but at this point I didn't care as it was wonderful.


To end our dinner, Dominique served some different flavored Macarons, the French meringue type cookies, not to be confused with macaroons, the coconut cookies. They were nice and light. Since he didn't think that was enough, he also served his Chocolate Mousse and I don't think anyone finished theirs as we were all super stuffed.



I strongly urge you to try and make a reservation between Oct. 18 and 21.  For escargot lovers, this will be a wonderful treat and for people who have never had them or have had them and didn't like them, this is your chance to get reacquainted with them for nobody does it better than Dominique.