Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie is a 255 seat restaurant, gourmet market and patisserie. It is huge and as we walked in, there was an immediate vibe and excitement. There were lots of people all over the place. I first had to look at the display of all the beautiful pastries. While waiting to be seated we watched the very busy staff preparing salads, sandwiches etc. We also noticed a lot of waste as they trimmed the sandwiches and the meats as they were cut in round shapes.

My brother Gary has been here before and raved about a salmon dish he had for lunch. Well, that was lunch and this was dinner so no salmon! One thing for sure, since Milena recommended the Portobello fries, we had to order that for everyone to share. Cindy and I ordered the Kobe beef hamburger and Sandi had the Porchetta which is a slow roasted pork with caramelized sweet onions, peppadew peppers (cross between peppers and tomatoes) arugula and brined caper, aioli sauce and house made coleslaw. Sandi and I decided to share the hamburger and the porchetta. Gary opted for the Tagliatelle Bolognese; traditional Bolognese meat ragu with bechamel and pecorino romano cheese. I asked our server to bring the drinks when we get our portobello mushroom fries.  Shortly after she left, a waiter brought my drink so I told him I wanted to wait. The diet coke went to another table. We didn't know what to expect with the mushrooms. We thought they were fries with the mushrooms but they were large pieces of actual portobello mushrooms that were breaded and fried. They were absolutely delicious. We all could have just eaten a ton of them.

Our order took forever to arrive. Once, our waitress told us the food was coming and 10 minutes later, a man that looked like the manager walked to your table to let us know the food was coming...again. We figured they forgot to put our order in because the people that sat after us were in the middle of their meal by then. The food eventually arrived. The burger looked promising. Sandi and I cut our sandwiches in 1/2 and proceeded to devour them.....the porchetta had quite a a bit of fat in it. My first bite was fine but the next one did not taste good. Aside from the chunks of fat, the sandwich was cold. Sandi had 1 bite and gave up on it. The hamburger which we ordered medium was very well done and dry. At $16.00 this was not enjoyed as much as I enjoy a six dollar burger at Carl's Jr.!
Cindy's burger was dry as well. The bun was good though. Gary's pasta was not aldente plus it just was not good. We all agreed that this was not edible so he sent it back. The waitress apologized and asked what he wanted to order instead. She handed him the menu and disappeared. We had to flag another waiter to ask her to come back to take his order. She finally came and he ordered the Hanger steak with a black truffle demi-glace. We all had a bite. We all looked at each other chewing and chewing. The pieces we got were not tender. There were a few that were chewable per Gary. I didn't like the sauce.

I looked at the desserts. They looked pretty but somehow I was leery as I know very often that looks can be deceiving. Gary has had their macarons and he found them too sweet. The St. Honore looked good but at $12, I didn't want to experiment.

The fact that there were no adjustments on the bill or the manager didn't come to apologize validated our opinion that service is not a priority to them. When that happens, I make it a point to never return to an establishment. To give you an example, we were once at a Ruth's Chris and the lobster was overcooked but we decided to just eat it. When the server asked how everything was, we  told her the lobster was overcooked. The manager found out so she came and made sure we got another order and she came back again to make sure that we were satisfied. I understand things can go wrong but when it does, a good restaurant will rectify and do a little something for the inconvenience because they want you back. Bottega Louie obviously does not give a ........(you know what).

Bottega Louie is located at 700 S. Grand in downtown Los Angeles in case you want to try the very delicious portobello fries.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Dinner 2014

The best part for me about a dinner party at home is setting the table. At  least what I set is what I get. No chance of failure.

This Christmas dinner was a bit different.  I decided to makes something I've never made before which was Prime Rib. Everyone always told me how easy it is to make.  Though my friend Cindy reminded me that I once made it and it was a flop since my oven stopped working.

My double oven has been calibrated since then so I thought; why not. Life is too short and I have to live dangerously sometimes.  I bought a 9.5lb prime rib. On Christmas eve, Sandi and I watched our cousin Ramon cook 2 of these hunk of meats. He seasoned them and put them in the oven for 45 minutes at 500 degrees. After 45 minutes, he reduced the temperature to 325 degrees and cooked it another 45 minutes (5 min. per lb. for medium rare).

So I got my meat out of the refrigerator and let it rest for 2 hours. I seasoned it heavily with butter, garlic salt, Lawry's seasoned salt, fresh rosemary and thyme. I put it in the oven for 45 min. at 500 degrees. I then lowered the temperature to 325 degrees and after 45 minutes, Sandi and I took temperature readings (we both had different thermometers), to make sure. It registered 114 degrees. We made a small slit and decided it was rare, so we decided to keep it in for another 30 minutes. We took it out, ready or not and just tented it to continue cooking. It was dripping blood....oh well, we thought it would continue to cook.  After 25 minutes, we had a conference. Sandi was telling me how I should cut it and rather than follow instructions, I handed her the knife. Everyone thought it should be cooked by then. She started cutting like a surgeon as I assisted by patting her forehead, more for moral support. When she got the hang of it, like a typical surgeon, she handed the knife to her assistant, Gary and he finished the slicing. The first few slices were well done, then came the medium rare and then the very rare which we had to stick in the microwave. It turned out to be quite good with the whipped horseradish I made and the creamed corn.

By the time I started eating, the prime rib was already cold. All I could think of is my renewed appreciation for Lawry's.  When I go to Lawry's, I am always happy with my prime rib as it it served by my table and is guaranteed to be perfectly cooked with the right temperature. All I do is sit, order and enjoy. Making my own is too stressful and since all ovens are different, there is no perfect recipe.

We ended the meal with a nice dessert. Coffee Crunch cake from Red Ribbon Bakery. Since Sandi and I were in the kitchen most of the time and stressing out, I forgot to take pictures of the people. At least it was just family and they seem to be forgiving, at least most of the time. We still had a Merry Christmas.

I don't know what I will be serving next year but I do know it will not be prime rib.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chocolate in Chocolate

I just have to share what I had for breakfast this morning.  I had it at L'Amande Bakery in Torrance.
First let me break it down.  I ordered a chocolate croissant and the thick French chocolate which is served with whipped cream.

I then proceeded to scoop all of the whipped cream and slowly letting it fall into the cup of the thick French chocolate. I then gently mixed it but not all the way, I wanted some cream to stay afloat.

The next step is critical. I held the the croissant with both hands and tore it apart, admired the nice flaky layers of my croissant before dunking the piece without the chocolate into the hot chocolate.  It was delicious; a very rich flavor.  I took turns of dunking and not dunking and I immediately concluded that I preferred the ones bathed in the hot chocolate. My thought was it would be too sweet or too rich. was, but I didn't seem to mind it. It gave me the energy to withstand my dance lessons with Piero and Tom!

I would like to thank Nayeli, my server at L'Amande for holding the croissant for me so I could take the picture. She was very helpful.

L'Amande currently has 2 locations; one in Torrance at the Rolling Hills Plaza and the other in Beverly Hills.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Royce' Chocolates Just Landed

Everyone rejoice! It's about are now able to buy Royce' Chocolates in the U.S. in the state of California in the city of Torrance. They are available at J. Sweets inside Mitsuwa Market at 21515 S.Western Avenue.

For those of you who have never heard of the Japanese chocolatier that makes these smooth, velvety little "nama" chocolates, see my previous blog on these heavenly treats.

Additional locations of Royce' Chocolates in California are in Irvine, and San Jose. I found out that they also have a couple of stores in New York.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Talenti v.s. Magnum

I have previously blogged about these 2 sinful ice cream bars. The Magnum comes in different flavors but I have only had the Double Caramel. The ice cream base is vanilla bean and this is dipped in a chocolate coating with caramel sauce and milk chocolate. Before Talenti came out with their version, I was addicted to Magnum.

Talenti is slightly different as it is mainly sea salt caramel dipped in rich dark chocolate. This is also quite addicting. Today as I was looking for Talenti I bumped into my old friend Magnum. Since I haven't had it for a long time, I was curious to see if Magnum still ruled. The only way to find out was to do a side by side taste test.

So it begun.... a bite of the Talenti then a bite of the Magnum, then another bite of Talenti and back to Magnum.  I concluded that the Magnum was a bit heavier and richer which is or isn't necessarily good or bad unless you count the calories. The Talenti was lighter. Both were delicious in it's own way. I was enjoying them and could have finished both till I added the total calories. Had I devoured both, I would have consumed a total of 540 calories, 65 mg. cholesterol, 53 g.sugar; the plus side....3 g.fiber!

Conclusion: There is no clear winner here. They are both very good and you find them in the ice cream department on your nearby supermarket.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


While shopping at South Coast Plaza this weekend, I spotted Sugarfina the candy store. I have heard of this so called "gourmet" store so my friend and I went in to investigate. The store looked cool decorated in colors of blue; somewhat reminiscent of Tiffany's.

They had all sorts of candies, chocolates in different flavors. The salesperson informed us that we could sample anything we wanted. We did sample a few and some were better than others. We both particularly liked the Champagne Bubbles which reminded us of nonpareils but had the consistency of a gummy bear, not to be confused with the Champagne Gummy Bears which supposedly has real champagne in them as opposed to the bubbles which only has the flavor.

We then tasted the the Bacon Toffee which we both liked. The sea salt caramel did not excite us. I ended up buying a small box of the Champagne Bubbles, and a box of the Bacon Toffee. I also bought a bigger box of the Peanut Butter Toffee for a friend that loves anything peanut butter.

The sales person put everything in one bag. I asked for an extra bag since the bigger box was going to be a present. He informed me that I would have to buy the extra bag. I was appalled! They had nice packaging but they are too cheap and stingy to give out bags. I bought 3 boxes so technically, they should be able to give out 3 little bags. I often buy things to give to friends so they can sample what I've discovered.

I have read comments on yelp on how people correlate Sugarfina to Tiffany's.  This is an injustice. No matter how inexpensive an item is at Tiffany's, they never skimp on their gift bags. Why?....because Tiffany's not only sell quality.....they do have class!

Sugarfina has a lot to learn. If they want to join the "big boys" they have to act like one. Needless to say, I will not be shopping there anymore.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Butter

It took my nephew Andre from the Philippines to make me buy this jar of cookie butter from Trader Joe's.  He informed me that this was quite popular in the Philippines even if they don't have Trader Joe's. It is apparently being sold at some specialty stores over there.

That made me very curious so the last time I was at Trader Joe's with him, I had to buy a jar. The consistency is very much like peanut butter.  I bought Thomas' English Muffin (original sourdough) and toasted it the following morning. I then spread some of the cookie dough on it and made sure all the nooks and crannies got their share of the spread. The verdict: Delicious! I recommend you eat this with a slice or two of your favorite strong cheddar cheese.  A strong cup of coffee with it was a perfect breakfast.

Not everything at Trader Joe's is good. This was not bad at all. I am sure it would go well with bananas, apples and a few other items. You can get this at your nearest Trader Joe's.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thick French Chocolate

If you've never had the "real" thick French chocolate from L'Amande Bakery, you have been missing something amazing. If you've never had the hot chocolate at the infamous Angelina in Paris, here's your chance. It is thick and very rich. This isn't for the people who are always on a diet. With the cold weather approaching, now is a good time to enjoy this wonderful drink.

I took my nephew and his daughter to the bakery for their first breakfast at L'Amande Bakery. My nephew had the Croque Jeune Homme, another incredible dish; see previous blog: and his daughter Sab, ordered a chocolate croissant. After several bites, Sab's dad Andre, dipped the croissant in the thick chocolate and when she had that bite, I knew she was on to something special. After that, Andre gave her a bite of his Croque Jeune Homme and dunked it in the chocolate. I had nothing to dunk as I already finished my breakfast so I had to have a bite of her croissant with the thick chocolate. I had to agree with Sab's remark: "It's so yummy"; and yummy it was. It didn't stop there, a piece of bacon found it's way into the chocolate and that was enjoyed as well. I wanted to try that but since there was not enough bacon, I thought I would just wait and order my very own Croque Jeune Homme next time and do my own dipping.

One might think that chocolate on chocolate would be overkill but you have to try it the next time as it is truly delicious. I am just surprised why I didn't think of it before. I am glad my nephew did. I guess there is some truth to the saying: "The acorn does not fall far from the tree."

L'Amande Bakery has 2 locations; one in Torrance at the Rolling Hills Plaza and the other at S.Santa Monica Blvd. in  Beverly Hills .