Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cabernet Poached Pears

Gotta try the Cabernet Poached Organic Baby Pears on top of a vanilla bean custard with a side of butter shortbread from L' Amande Bakery. You don't have enough time....tomorrow, March 30th is the last day.

The delectable ruby red pear is fully saturated in Cabernet wine and is a bit crunchy (not soggy) and is bursting with a rich flavor. A bite of that then a scoop of the light vanilla bean custard alternating it with the butter shortbread and the custard is divine.

You get your fresh fruit and red wine. How much healthier can you get? Head on over at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance tomorrow. They are located at the Rolling Hills Plaza by Trader Joe's.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar....

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar - Caramel with black sea salt is my latest discovery.  I had bought this probably about a month ago and I just found it beneath a pile of papers on my desk; I haven't seen the wood of the table in some time; obviously!

It was a nice surprise to find this chocolate since I haven't had dessert this evening. I immediately ripped the foil and I got a whiff of the dark chocolate. I took a bite of a thin square and it made a snapping sound as caramel oozed out. The chocolate was nice and bitter (70% cacao) funny, I never used to like dark chocolate. The sweetness of the caramel was just enough to offset the bitterness and the bits of salt also played an important part by complementing both the dark chocolate and the sweet caramel.

Remember that they say dark chocolate is good for you ....Amen! I included a picture of the nutritional facts. I was only going to have one square but forgot to take a picture so I had to take another one out and bite into it so I could take the photograph. Even if fat and cholesterol are present, note that it has 3 grams of fiber and even has Vitamin A, C, Calcium and Iron.

One square is really enough to satisfy a craving so this is a good thing. It's like taking your daily vitamins. Hah!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

MB Post

Manhattan Beach Post located at 1142 Manhattan Ave. in Manhattan Beach was the venue for our friend Ana's belated birthday. We were all excited to try this restaurant.  All 5 of us went via a limousine which made our outing so much more fun especially for the birthday celebrant who was totally surprised.

I was happy to see that this was a much bigger place than Chef Le Fevre's other restaurant, Fishing with Dynamite. Our server Rachel was the best. She explained the menu to us and suggested we order 2-3 items each to be shared. We already knew we had to have their famous Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits with maple butter. That was outstanding. It was cheesy, crusty outside soft inside with herbs and with the maple butter; it's like we all went straight to heaven. I have to tell you that these biscuits were not small and that is a good thing (at least for me). The others complained about the size but they had no difficulty in consuming their share.

We all absolutely loved the Broccoflower with lemon, chili flakes and parmesan. This was highly recommended by Rachel. The Pomegranate Couscous with lavender feta, almonds, grapefruit and mint was beautiful. Though most liked it, I'm afraid I could not share their enthusiasm. It was too healthy for my taste.  I did like the Saffron Risotto with blue crab, shrimp, squid, English peas and squid ink rice crackers. Two people in our party did not care for it since they don't enjoy squid. I know....I should have left them home!

We also ordered the Cabacero de Iberico De Bellota Puro, Extremador from Spain. This was served with 2 pieces of thick toast which didn't really go with it since the meat were sliced thin and small. They should have served it with thinner bread. They also could have put more mustard on the platter instead of drop or two. The Fee Fi Fo Fum Fries with the mbp sauce was a big disappointment. I think this should be taken off the menu. They are giant size (fee fi fo fum) but they are tasteless and just too starchy. I had a bite. Everyone shared my opinion.  Ana ordered the Vietnamese Caramel Pork Jowl with green papaya salad with lime. That was good though 2 people didn't care for it only because it was the "jowl". Like I said, I should have left them home. The Seared Diver Scallops with sweet peas and bacon and smashed potatoes was a hit. We all liked it. The last item we ordered was the White Oak Grilled Skirt Steak with grilled broccolini and red chimichurri.  It's funny that we all had the same opinion on this steak. First of all, it was tender so that was a good thing but it was much too bitter for us. I usually like a burnt taste on some meats but this one went overboard. It wasn't burnt but it tasted like it was so we really did not enjoy it.

Dessert time: The birthday girl got the Valrhona Chocolate & Salted Caramel Tart with vanilla whipped cream. Let me tell you, this was wonderful; we all loved it! The "Elvis" was a wonderful mess of chocolate pudding, peanut butter mousse and bacon brittle. It had caramelized bananas on top. Everyone loved this. I liked the pudding and the banana part. I don't like peanut butter so I didn't like the mousse.

If I were to compare MB Post to Fishing With Dynamite, I would have to say Fishing With Dynamite would be my preference.  See previous blog:

You have to go visit MB Post to experience their Cheddar Biscuits for sure and hopefully you will have better luck in your selections. You can be sure you will get great service especially if you end up with Rachel.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spago Beverly Hills

It has been ages since I've been to Spago. Yesterday I ended up there for a late lunch.  The ambiance was spacious, lots of light with a view of the kitchen.  We started with cocktails. I highly recommend the Tiffany which was a rose champagne with a twist of lemon. The Love, Lust & Lace was not bad; champagne with grand marinier.

A server came with a variety of breads. The olive was delicious. The crispy seedy cracker was almost tolerable with lots of butter; without the butter it tasted like gourmet bird food.

My friend had a lobster bisque to start.  I had a spoonful and I did like it as it was nice and light.
My shrimp salad looked outstanding. The shrimps couldn't have been better. It was delicious. I can't say the same for the salad part. It was a bit sour and no flavor. I would label this as the typical Beverly Hills diet.....flavorless salad wherein the person eating this will not have an ounce of guilt as is is pretty much just shredded vegetables with probably lemon.

We both looked forward to the Tagliatelle with Truffles. Two servers came with each dish and a tall dome covering the small mound of pasta.  When the dish landed for a touchdown on our table, they lifted the dome and let us have a whiff of the truffle aroma. My first comment was that was the strangest Tagliatelle I have ever seen. It looked like spaghetti. In fact it reminded me of a Filipino-Chinese noodle called lomi.  I asked the server about the pasta as it sure didn't look like a Tagliatelle. He told us with confidence that this was a Tagliatelle pasta. Who am I to argue....the customer is never right!  It was good but this did not wow me. At $42 this should have been wonderful. The last pasta I had with truffles was at Locando Positano and that did wow me.

We did order a dessert to split.  A Sticky Toffee Date Cake with caramelized apple, labne frozen yogurt, sweet pickled dates, thyme. This was good but not as exciting as I would have imagined.

I was not impressed at all for lunch so I doubt I would return for dinner. It would be a very expensive experiment to go back. Wolfgang Puck may have been the best at one time but I think time has not been on his side lately.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Raymond's Birthday Dinner at Dominique's Kitchen

He happened to be he in Los Angeles on his birthday; the last time he was here on his special day, was 5 years ago.  I invited Raymond and his wife Alma for the birthday dinner.

It was a Monday night and we were lucky as they had the escargot at a "happy hour" rate which was $3.00 for 3 pieces. If you haven't had it, this is the time to experiment so in case you don't fall in love with these creatures, you would have wasted only $3.00. If by chance you do end up getting engaged to them, you would blame yourself for not finding your true love earlier. They really are the best escargot in town. The other "happy hour" appetizer we ordered was the deep fried kale with shaves of parmesan cheese. It is a nice way of having your vegetables and really enjoying it; how could you's deep fried. Three people also had the Lobster Bisque soup which they all loved.

Alma has never heard of Dominique's Roasted Chicken cooked in olive oil, herbs and a rich au jus so I talked her into trying it as it really is very good. Of course she almost screamed when she saw the size of the chicken. It came with the addicting garlic fries which went well with the au jus.
The birthday boy and Erik had the Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs with pinot noir, tomato, onion and garlic served with a creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables. I have had this and if you like short ribs, this is the place to go as it is so tender that you really do not need a knife to cut it. I decided on the Lamb Chops with creamy polenta cooked with roasted garlic and thyme au jus and a side of vegetables. All I can say is: "Yummmm"

We had to have dessert of course. Raymond and I had the Baked Alaska, Alma and Erik had the Floating Island. I have had all their desserts and you really cannot go wrong on any of them.

We ordered some entrees "to go" as my niece Aimee who just had a baby chose to stay home with her husband Elliot and Elliot's mom Louise.  We ordered them the Roasted Chicken, Short Ribs and Mushroom Risotto.  We also got them some Lobster Bisque. They all raved about the food.
So, even if were not together at the restaurant, we were all united in spirit and I think Raymond had a very happy birthday.

Dominique's Kitchen is located at 522 S. Pacific Coast Hwy. in Redondo Beach, California.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Restaurant Christine

Restaurant Christine has been on the same location at 24530 Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance for many years.  It has been so long since I have been there.
Today is the first Friday in Lent and so here we go meat. Sandi has never been to this restaurant so I told her it is time she try it as I don't recall ever being disappointed in any way in the past.

Their menu has changed and now they have joined the bandwagon on the "Small Plates", in other words: appetizers. We both did not have a real lunch so we decided to order 2 entrees to split. We picked the Sugar Cane Skewered Shrimps, Sea Scallop & Grade "A" Ahi with Coconut Sticky Rice, Wasabi Infused Sesame Seeds, Stir Fried Vegetables and Hawaiian Curry Sauce. The second entree was the Panko Crusted Crab Stuffed Shrimp Sesame Seaweed Salad, Julienne Carrots, Wasabi, Nori, Sauteed Pea Shoots, Curry-Coconut Sauce.

Our server, a very social gentleman asked us what we would like to drink. I ordered a glass of Prosecco for Sandi and a German Riesling for me. Her Prosecco arrived and shortly after that he presented me with bottle which resembled beer. At first, I gave it the benefit of the doubt; I thought I was really out of touch that they now have white wine served in little beer bottles. It turned out it was someone else's order. Oh well, honest mistake.  I placed our order and informed him that we were ordering the 2 entrees and splitting them.

The first order came; the Skewered Shrimps, Scallops and Ahi. This was delivered by another server who also brought us 2 small plates so we could divide the items. We were puzzled because only one entree came. Our server didn't ask us if we wanted one entree at a time. Oh well...this was their way of doing things. The Ahi was raw inside. I understand some people like it this way. We are not one of them and I think they should inform people if this is the way they serve it so as not to surprise anyone. We sent it back and though it was more cooked outside, the inside was still raw.  We reminded ourselves of the Lenten season so we sacrificed and ate it anyway.  We finished our first course and we looked for our server who looked busy but was busier socializing. I mentioned to Sandi that it would be funny if he came and asked us if we would want dessert. Well, the other server did come by and asked if we wanted coffee. I told him we were waiting for our other entree. Our regular server who shall remain anonymous for the purpose of this blog, was busy massaging a customer's back (at the bar) accidentally glanced my way. He came by and I asked about our other entree. He acted like he knew all along that it was coming.  While waiting, Sandi asked if I was still hungry. She was willing to just pay and go home! After another 5 minutes, our 2nd entree arrived. The Panko Crusted Crab stuffed shrimps were delicious. I am glad I asked for an extra order of Coconut Sticky Rice which came with the previous entree. These should REALLY be served with that rice. Without the rice, is like eating corned beef without the cabbage or hamburger without the bun!

All in all the food was good but the poor service did take away from dining pleasure. To top it off, we were seated behind the bar and the one lady kept fluffing her hair and we were afraid her hair would land on our food. Our server came by to ask about dessert. Yes, we wanted to see the menu. Well, another 5 minutes went by before we got it.  The brioche bread pudding with caramel sauce sounded divine. We could not get our server's attention. Another 5-7 minutes went by. We finally decided to just leave. Not so fast....we had to wait to have eye contact with Mr. Personality which we finally did. We gave our credit cards and left asap.

We were disappointed to say the least. I always said that good food alone does not insure a pleasant dining experience. You have to have good service wherein the customer is given importance, after all, they are ultimately the ones that will spread the word....good or bad.

Note: At the bottom of our check were the different calculations for 15%,18%,20%,22% for tip. Needless to say, the server got less than 15% and that was being generous.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dinner at Palmeri Ristorante

We discovered this restaurant by accident 4 weeks ago. We vowed to return as the food was very good; authentic Italian with owner/Chef Ottavio Palmeri and his Italian staff.  There were six of us for dinner this time. We were a bit early so we sat at the bar and were quickly greeted by a cute and animated Italian lady named Alize. She was very busy but didn't miss a beat. Chef Ottavio was busy as well working the floor. See link on previous visit to Palmeri.

Before our appetizers, they served a basket of sliced bread and a dish of goat cheese with some kind of red sauce; marinara perhaps?  This was very tasty. It was hard not to make an entree out of this. We ordered several appetizers. I had shredded artichoke with lemon topped with a couple of large shaved parmesan cheese. Alma had something that looked similar; Asparagi...white asparagus, baby spinach, purple potatoes, Boschetto (sheep's milk infused with white truffles), pistachio and Guanciale (Italian cured meat, usually cheek) in a  shallot vinaigrette. Louise had the Fritto Misto, lightly fried calamari, scallops and shrimp which was quite edible.  Raymond had the special for the evening which was veal. It reminded me of baby food and though it was delicious I thought it needed to be served with bread or something to spread on to.

For our entrees: We pretty much ordered the same things.  We loved their homemade Tagliatelle Bolognese so Alma ordered that. The special pasta that evening was a Spaghetti with Truffles.  I split that with someone and decided to get the Branzino. I got all excited when I spotted the encrusted sea bass by the bar as the waiter cracked it open. I remember having that in Sorrento. They brought the fish to our table so I could take a picture of it inside the salted cave. They then took it away to strip it from it's armor and came back with the naked fish then once again whisked it off to fillet. It came back all prepped and ready to be consumed. This was the freshest, most tender fish ever and is sure to make a fish lover out of anyone; even my friend Mertz!  I loved the combination of fish and the spaghetti. Louise had an interesting entree; they were prawns wrapped in swordfish. I didn't really notice the swordfish as I was not aware at the time I was trying it. All I know is whatever fish it was that enveloped the crustacean made the prawn more exciting. It was plump and juicy which equalled.....deeelicious!  I don't remember what Elliot had since he was sitting on the far end of the table. It didn't matter because if you recall, Elliot usually does not care to share!

For dessert, Raymond ordered the Crostata di Limone; Lemon Tart with Prosecco Sorbetto which sounded good but it was too tart for my taste. Alma had the Citrus Scented Panna Cotta. The presentation on this was beautiful and was informed that it was very nice and light. My son had the Cioccolato, Valrhona chocolate hazelnut crunch cake which was served with ice cream. I didn't get to try that one. Our server, Gennaro suggested the Cannoli. He swore by it and since he was so passionate about it I gave in. Boy was it ever good. I am glad I listened to Gennaro...

It was nice to see  Marco, our previous server we loved. Gennaro was just as nice and treated us like old friends.  Gennaro, Marco, Alize and of course Chef Ottavio Palmeri; on behalf of the Montoya-Muenchow family, I say:  Grazie Mille.