Monday, April 28, 2014

Birthday Celebration at a Home

It was nice for a change to celebrate my birthday at someone's house.  It was very nice of my partner in crime Sandi, to host a pajama party. The rule was to come in pajamas and not change into pajamas when you got there. Cindy was afraid of getting into an accident and being in her pajamas. I told her it was the best thing because the paramedics usually will just rip your clothes off; well....not really.....they cut them in shreds. (Though she probably wouldn't mind paramedics ripping her clothes off ).

Everyone brought an appetizer. Mertz brought a nice salad, Cindy made a caramelized onion dip with vermouth in it, Sandi had a nice plate with cold cuts and cheese and Ana brought my favorite dessert that she only made once before.

We all chipped in on the catered food. The food was from Gaetano's in Torrance. We had Polenta con Short Ribs which was grilled polenta that was nice and crispy outside but soft inside. On top of it was the Chianti braised short ribs; we all loved it! The Penni Asparagi with grilled chicken, fresh asparagus and mushrooms was delicious. We also had the Rolled Eggplant Parmigiana which everyone loved. We all enjoyed lots of champagne with our wonderful food.

Dessert was furnished by Ana. We call it the BH delight. (inside joke) This was truly a labor of love as it was not easy to make. It is made from croissants which already has a ton of butter, then it is deep fried but ever so carefully so as not to come apart while frying. You won't believe that this delightful dessert has over 100 layers of croissant crust!!!! This is one reason she won't be making it anytime soon plus the fact that she does not want anyone to have a heart attack on account of her.

I want to thank Gaetano's for the wonderful food and Ana for our dessert.  Most of all, I'd like to thank my dearest friends who came to celebrate my 61st birthday. We had a lot of fun and this just proves that age is just a number.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Meal at Dominique's Kitchen

Call it brunch or dinner; Dominique's was the best kitchen to be in on Easter Sunday. There were supposed to be 4 of us: my son, brother, Sandi and myself. My husband still in the hospital could not join us. My son and my friend both caught the 24 hr. intestinal flu so they ended up staying in bed. As the saying goes; "the show must go on", so Gary and I marched in Dominique's Kitchen with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Eden Canyon; great wine especially after a few minutes of breathing. The menu looked enticing and it was hard to decide what to order.

I really wanted some escargot as they have the best in town, but our server told us about the Parisian style shrimp cocktail. Who can say no to Parisian shrimps; I've never met one! Both Gary and I had it. We got a generous amount of fresh and plump shrimps with a very nice sauce; this was served on a bed of greens and a hard boiled egg. We tried not to overdose on the French bread to leave ample room for what was to come. We had a choice of soup or salad. Gary had the Lobster Bisque and I chose the Caesar salad with anchovies and parmesan cheese shaving. Both were delicious.

For our second course, I suggested we split 2 entrees to further challenge our palates. My brother chose the Linguine with asparagus, portobello mushrooms, sauvingnon blanc cream and parmesan cheese. I ordered the Slow Braised Beef Bourguignon with cabernet sauvignon, pearl onions and truffle mashed potatoes. We both enjoyed our entrees. Gary loved everything; I was happy that he truly was impressed since he is not easy to please as he eats in more "gourmet" restaurants all over (far more than I do) Los Angeles.

Dessert was a no-brainer since the one we picked was a "special"; something that's not usually in the menu. The Bailey's Panna Cotta with peach compote and toasted almonds. This was definitely queen of all Panna Cottas.  The peach compote perfectly engulfed the ever so light panna cotta that had flavor of Bailey's cream. I could eat this everyday!

The only way our Easter celebration could have been better was a hundred percent attendance of my family; though I really cannot complain. Gary and I were very happy campers when we left Dominique's Kitchen.

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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Unbelievable Deal at Gaetano's

I have blogged about this unbelievable deal in the past. For $50.00 a family of four can dine at Gaetano's and be really satisfied; both quality and quantity.

I treated my cleaning crew, Sandi, Amy and Nako. They have helped me organize and clean various parts of my house since my husband has been hospitalized and by the way, there are a few of my dearest friends.

Sandi is no stranger to this amazing deal however, it was Amy and Nako's first time. We started with the best ever fried artichoke hearts dipped in ranch dressing. I was so excited to introduce this favorite of mine to the newcomers that I forgot to take a picture. We all had a choice of minnestrone soup, garden or caesar salad to start. That was after we consumed lots of bread dipped in olive oil.

Four our primi, we picked the Penne Asparagi which was penne pasta with grilled chicken, fresh aparagus, roma tomatoes, parmesan, and olive oil-garlic sauce. For our secondi, we picked the Brasato which is a braised chuck roast. They served this along with the penne pasta. The pasta was delicious and the chuck roast was so tender that there was no need to use our knives. The meal could have easily fed a family of five!

Needless to say, we had leftovers which my son had the following day. We still ordered dessert even if all 4 of us could hardly move. We decided to just share a Tiramisu. It was big enough to share and we all enjoyed this nice and light dessert.

For people who have not yet heard of this's time to smell the roses!!

Gaetano's Restaurant is located at 2731 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Torrance, California.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hakata Ramen

We love the ramen at Santouka Ramen at Mitsuwa Market.  Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with my husband's nurse, Maris. She is a fellow foodie. We talked about our favorite subject: Restaurants. She asked me if I had ever been to Hakata Ramen.  The answer was "no".  She raved about the ramen. The first question I asked was; "is it better than Santouka Ramen and her answer was YES!  The nice part of this conversation was finding out  that the restaurant was close to the hospital at 2015 W. Redondo Beach Blvd. #C in Gardena, California.

I looked for this restaurant on my way home from the hospital last week. I spotted it so I decided to investigate. It was too early and they were still closed. Two days later, I went back with my friend Sandi. It's a little place and the first thing we noticed was the loud noise. Everyone seemed to be screaming. I finally figured out that it was the "normal" greeting from the staff. They all shout a welcoming "hello" when you come in and they all yell "thank you" in Japanese when you leave. People were coming and going so you can imagine the repetitive hellos and goodbyes.

I remember Maris telling me to order the soft noodles. You pick the firmness of the noodle: soft, normal or hard. Then you pick the amount of soup oil: thick, normal or light. I could not remember what she suggested so I picked thick. You then have to pick the strength of the soup base: strong, normal or mild. I picked strong.  They had extra toppings: cha shu pork, flavored egg, flavored bamboo, corn or wontan. I had pork, corn and wontan.  Sandi had a similar one except she had the normal oil and soup base. In our excitement, we didn't see the special side toppings: spicy miso, garlic chips, fried onion, crispy bacon, green chili butter bomb (spicy) garlic miso butter and garlic oil.

The bowl was BIG! We both loved the ramen and as we looked at each other, we read each other's mind. This was more delicious than Santouka Ramen. We can't wait to go back and try the garlic chips and crispy bacon toppings. On our next visit we will try to remember to take some ear plugs along. The staff is very nice and courteous and willing to explain the menu. FYI, we both could not finish our ramen; it's a lot of food!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Phil's Fish Grill

My son actually discovered this little place on 1175 W. Carson St. in Torrance.  On his way home, he got a Tuna Plate with garlic butter and rice pilaf and a plate of Swordfish, also with garlic butter and rice pilaf. The entrees came with a small salad with mandarin oranges and some beans. It was lot to eat!  The fish was nice and fresh and I'm sure I did my body good eating my serving of fish for the week.

The other day a friend and I decided to go to Phil's to have something not quite so big so we settled for fish and shrimp tacos. When we got to our table, a basket of chips and salsa were patiently waiting for us. We didn't want to keep them waiting so we dug right in. With some salt added to chips, they were very good and so was the salsa.

The Grilled Shrimp Taco was nice and tender though it lacked some flavor. It got a lot better when I added some of the salsa to it.  I had the Mahi-Mahi Taco; that too was fresh and delicious. My friend had the Cajun Tilapia and she really liked it.

Phil's Grill have a lot on their menu; Grilled Fish Plates, Grilled Fish Salads, Tacos, Burritos and Sandwiches and Wraps. There's something for everybody.

Espresso Mille Feuilles

I didn't get to try this dessert; Espresso Mille Feuilles aka Espresso Napoleon, until 8:00 p.m. tonight (Saturday night). I had 2 set aside for me at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance and did not get a chance until dessert time.

These are your typical French Mille Feuilles that have a million layers of flaky pastry with a nice strong espresso filling. You can really taste the espresso. Coffee lovers rejoice! When I first bit into it, I closed my eyes to savor the texture and coffee taste. I could only describe it as " God!"

I will get some more tomorrow so I can keep enjoying them till Monday or Tuesday. Tomorrow is the last day (weekend special) to get these lovely Mille Feuilles. If you decide to take some home, remember that the key for them to stay fresh is to keep them in an open container in the refrigerator. It will stay crispy for a day or two.

L'Amande Bakery is located at 2553 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Torrance at the Rolling Hills Plaza.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

$99 April Dinner for Two

It would be a pity not to take advantage of this special going on right now (April 2014) at Lawry's Beverly Hills. For $99 you get the Original Spinning Bowl Salad, an 8 oz. cut of the best Roasted Prime Rib of Beef with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and creamed corn. For the non meat eaters, you could order the Fresh Salmon with seasonal vegetables. All that food with a bottle of Lawry's Private Selection of wine which is quite good.

I won't bore you on how good everything was since I have blogged about Lawry's numerous times.
The reason I am blogging about it again is to tell you about the dessert which was included in this $99 special. They called it The Quintessential Sundae. It is appropriately named as this is far from your regular sundae. Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream with toasted hazelnuts, Nutella (which I normally do not care for), C.C. Brown's Hot Fudge, whipped cream all served inside a Hot Yorkshire pudding. It looks like the same pudding you get with your prime rib but without the beef drippings. Mary and I loved it that we forced ourselves to finish it despite the fact we could hardly move form consuming the big hunk of meat!  This is a new dessert and I am not sure they will have it on their regular menu so I suggest you take advantage of this special before the month ends.

Lawry's is located at 100 N. La Cienega Blvd. in Beverly Hills.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Easter Carrot Cupcakes

Here's a preview of  the Easter Carrot Cupcakes coming up at L'Amande Bakery. These cupcakes are quite healthy and can't get healthier.....well I suppose they could but then it would not be good and there won't be anyone buying them except for the "health nuts".

There are 2-1/2 cups of carrots for every cup of flour, anymore carrots than that will make you start hopping around. Ana knew better not to inform me of the health benefits till after I ate the whole cupcake and that was after devouring the special for the weekend which was Sour Cherry Escargot. She also confessed that the topping of the sour cherry escargot was white chocolate! No wonder it was so very good.

Back to the cupcakes; some of them had the frosting all around and some had it just on top. I prefer frosting all over or even inside but that is my preference. I am sure there will be others that would only want a little bit. Whatever your preference, these are sure to bring a smile to any recipient.

In order not to be disappointed, make sure you put your order in before Easter. The phone number for L'Amande Bakery in Torrance is (310) 326-8980.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

85°C Café

On my way home from a hospital in Gardena, I all of as sudden saw this bakery I have heard about but haven't checked out since it was out of the way. It was 4:00 p.m. and though there were people inside, I did not see a line. I was overwhelmed by the fresh breads, cakes and pastries.

I started out with a large tray and thongs. In no time, my tray was full. I wanted to try as much as I could so my next trip would be only the cream of the crop. My son was not going to be home so I had to figure out how to try everything and wondered who I could call to help me with my experiment. I called Sandi and told her to come over right after her dance lesson so we could have a light dinner.

For dinner I reheated the Italian Tomato Danish; Danish bread with cheddar cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes and a garlic spread on top. We each had one which I served with a nice salad and lots of champagne. It was delicious; crispy and light and lots of flavor.

We then proceeded on trying pieces of the multiple breads and desserts. Our favorites were the Cheese bread; cream cheese filled bread with melted shredded cheese on top. We didn't even bother to heat it. The bread reminded me of a very light brioche. The other favorite was the Premium Milk; a big piece of soft bread with a fresh milk taste with white chocolate filling and sweet powdered sugar on top. These are best eaten fresh!

The Coffee Raisin Bread; Taiwanese coffee bread with milk, butter filling and raisins inside was quite good. We also liked the Pork Sung Bun with a blend of mayo and topped with dry shredded pork.

The Mocha Bread (striped) was a coffee and chocolate flavored bread but this only looked good but lacked flavor in spite of the walnuts inside.

The Walnut Tart was just a bunch of walnuts stuck together on a crust. It needed something sweet
like maybe some maple syrup. The big half-moon bread with white dusting was blueberry bread with tiny shreds of coconut. It looked like powdered sugar when I got it but as I took it out of the wrapper, I realized it was coconut (yuk!). I took a bite; didn't take another bite.

The Coffee Creme Brulee had caramel, milk custard and topped with a coffee glaze. It was not bad.  The Chocolate Pearl was a chocolate chiffon cake surrounded by chocolate mousse then glazed with more chocolate. That was light and sure to please chocolate mousse lovers. My husband would have loved this one.

The mini apple pie was disappointing. It was way to bready. I should not have even bought one. You can't beat the mini apple pie of L'Amande Bakery.

They have a lot of beautiful cakes but judging by what we tried, most of them look much better than they taste.

The bakery has multiple locations. You can google it to find one nearest you. If you seek quality bread and pastries, my money is still on L'Amande Bakery in Torrance.