Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kouign Amann at Vie de France

You cannot imagine my excitement when I went to Vie de France at South Coast Plaza to buy bread and some cinnamon rolls. I noticed a new pastry; her Majesty, the queen.....Kouign Amann (pronounced queen ahman). It looked like the real thing. The real thing is always compared to Pierre Herme's Kouign Amann in Paris, France.

The only one that has comes very close to that is the one they bake at Thomas Keller's Bouchon which they sell for $4.00 each but is quite large. Rockenwagner makes a much smaller version which you can get at Peet's Coffee for $2.95. It isn't bad but not great either.

Vie de France sells theirs at $2.99. At this price, it makes it the perfect substitute to Pierre Herme's kouign amann. When I first took it out of the bag, it had the "look of love". It glistened from the butter and sugar.  The consistency was perfect as I pulled it apart with my hands; just as you would a regular croissant.  I was pleasantly surprised on how delicious it was. It was crusty outside and sweet, buttery inside.

The good news is these kouign amann freezes beautifully. Since my oven is currently not working, I just microwaved it for 25 seconds, let it rest for 10 seconds and then inhaled it!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Dinner 2015

This Christmas dinner was a bit stressful. My menu had to be completely changed 2 days before Christmas because both my ovens were not working properly and though I was promised by "Reliable Appliance Service"  it would be fixed in time, they informed me later that the parts did not come in and was not expected to arrive until after the 1st of the year.

I had to decide what to serve. I thought of ordering Moussaka from Petros but was unable to get hold of them. Someone suggested ham but I thought it was too late to go to Honeybaked Ham as people usually pre-order those ahead of time. I knew Bristol Farms have very good ham but somehow I could not get excited. My brother suggested turkey. Why not.....I called Bristol Farms and the man I spoke to said he had one turkey left. I told him I wanted it fully cooked; it didn't have any dressing which was fine. When I went to pick it up day before Christmas, they could not find my order. They went through 2 file folders. I could not even think of what to do in case they didn't find it. They called the man in catering and when I told him my name, he remembered that I ordered it last minute. Hallelujah! My 11 lb fully cooked turkey appeared! I was disappointed by the looks of it. It was very pale. The instructions were, I had to cook it in the oven for 2 hours or so.

On Christmas day, instead of taking the turkey out an hour before, I took it out in the morning and it sat on the counter for 5 hours. Will my guests get salmonella? I hoped not! I preheated the oven for 45 minutes. The problem was it took too long to get hot and sometimes it did not hold its heat.  I still had to set the table; something I normally do the day before. I didn't even have the time to make name plates for seat assignments. I could not really look at the turkey while cooking since per the instructions, it had to be covered in foil. I was really at God's mercy and thank God.....He did not let me down. It came out perfect.

While it rested, I served a Cucumber Parmesan Soup which everyone enjoyed. It was time to carve the turkey. I started to do it but Aaron came to the rescue and volunteered to do it. As Sandi and I supervised, he did a great job as Gary helped by holding the platter. What would women do without men.

The turkey was delicious to everyone's surprise. I served it with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon. While having our dinner, the entertainment I ordered for the evening appeared on the night sky. The first Full Moon on Christmas day in 38 years! We tried to take pictures but none of our pictures did justice to what it really looked like. It was huge and was bright yellow-orange. The camera could not capture that color.

Sandi made the 2 desserts; Sophie's Pie (we don't really know who Sophie is or was) and a White Chocolate Key Lime Pie. Both were enjoyed by everyone.

The nice thing about this Christmas dinner is even if the turkey did not cook properly, we could have improvised by using the toaster oven or microwave. The guests were not so much guests as they were family and very close friends so they would have been forgiving.....or NOT!
Bah Humbug......

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Return to Petros

Sandi announced that she wanted to get a gift card from this restaurant to give as a Christmas present. I immediately told her we have to have a meal so as not to waste our time driving all the way to Manhattan Beach just to buy a gift card; she agreed with me. With our busy schedule we found time to have lunch there today. We've been wanting to go back since we celebrated our friend Sujata's birthday just 2 weeks ago. See previous blog:

We were determined to have their lamb chops which they did not offer on the lunch menu. The closest to lamb chops was the Grilled Lamb Sandwich with caramelized onions, tomatoes, whole grain mustard, mayonnaise, arugula and goat cheese served with an arugula salad. It came with a choice of ciabatta or olive bread. We did order the sandwich with olive bread. Half a sandwich was not enough for us so we decided to split the Lamb Pizza; homemade thin crispy dough topped with lamb, tomato sauce, tomatoes, kafteri dip, grilled bell peppers, red onions sprinkled with feta and kefalotiri cheese.

The sandwich was delicious with all the different flavors. I enjoyed it but didn't like my encounter with 2 pieces of fat. I usually like fat but this was not the flavorful fat, it was the chewy fat that could not be properly chewed to digest so I ended up extricating it from my mouth. Other than that, it was very good. The arugula salad that came with it was outstanding. Sandi and I loved the salad and could not figure out what was in it because you could hardly taste the bitterness of the arugula. It was not acidy from the balsamic vinegar but a bit sweet.

We were shocked to see the size of the pizza. It was bigger than expected. The lamb pizza was wonderful. It had a thin crust, the lamb tasted like a short ribs, very tender shreds of lamb. We could not finish everything so we ended up taking left overs home.

We got our credit cards out as we got ready to pay our bill when our server asked us about desserts. We told her we were too full ......however, " what desserts do you have?'. She recited a few of them when the Bougatsa got our attention. Bougatsa is a vanilla bean custard wrapped in phyllo, baked and served with ice cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon. A Chocolate Bougatsa is made with chocolate custard with Nutella. We opted for the non-chocolate.  This was fantastic. It was a warm dessert which I normally don't like but I loved this one. The vanilla bean custard was light, not overpowering. The phyllo was flaky. The ice cream was a perfect partner for this fabulous dessert.

I knew I would be going back to Petros but I didn't think it would be this soon. Sandi and I still want to go back to try the lamb chops, watermelon salad, etc. etc. and then have the Bougatsa again. Petros is at 451 Manhattan Beach Blvd., B110 in Manhattan Beach, California. They are open for lunch and dinner.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Bouchon Las Vegas

Breakfast at Bouchon is exciting. The first time I went with my brother also in Las Vegas, we were both determined to try their Pain Perdu (Brioche French Toast) and their famous Pommes Frites (French fries). One might ask: "French fries for breakfast?" We did not give our stomachs the luxury of letting them know that it was not yet lunch time and so we went for it. Deeeelicious!

We stayed at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas 2 weeks ago. This hotel is home to Bouchon. What better way to start the day by having breakfast at Bouchon. The big problem was making a decision. I wanted to try many things and since there were only 2 of us, we decided to share 2 entrees. Before anything, we were served some French bread with lots of butter and jam. Loved their bread which reminded us of good old L'Amande Bakery.

We ordered the Oeufs Benedict (Eggs Benedict) with smoked pork loin on country bread and sauce Hollandaise served with mixed greens. We figured this to be our main breakfast, good nutritious eggs; lots of protein. The eggs were poached to perfection. I think the key to it's being the best benedict we've had, was having it on the country bread as opposed to a boring English muffin.

The Gaufres au Levain (sourdough waffle) was served with caramel apples, toasted pecans and Chantilly cream. The vanilla bean butter made this wonderful sourdough waffle jump at us. Wow... I liked that they gave us a generous portion of the vanilla bean butter. The only thing lacking were the French fries!

The bad news is that you can't get these 2 items at the Bouchon in Beverly Hills. Their menu is different. You could get Chicken and Waffles and French Fries but not Eggs Benedict or the Sourdough Waffles. The good news is they have Croque Madame, Steak & Eggs with fries and more interesting things.  We will have to try those one of these days to see if we can be as just as happy.....

Saturday, December 19, 2015


This Greek Restaurant at 451 Manhattan Beach Blvd. B110 in Manhattan Beach has been in operation at least 10 years. They also have branches in Santa Barbara, Los Olivos and a Petros Kafe in El Segundo. The cuisine at Petros is a mix of Hellenic/Californian.

Petros in Manhattan Beach was the venue for Sujata's birthday. We were invited to her party and we were happy her daughter Neeta and new Baby Olivia was able to join us for a bit. We were there when they opened so it was nice to have all the attention, therefore we had great service. I have been to the restaurant ages ago and did not want to go back because it was too noisy and the people next to us seemed to close for comfort. The key to having a bit of privacy is to get there early.

Some of us started with the Lentil Soup which was very good.  The birthday girl ordered the Grilled Salmon served over Greek Caesar salad, grilled asparagus and homemade Latholemono sauce. She was very happy with her salmon. I had a bite of it and it was indeed fresh tasting and flaky. Sandi had the Keftethes; traditional meatballs with tomato & parsley served on homemade mashed potatoes. I was fortunate enough to end up with one ball. That was go good as the ball almost disintegrated on account of its moistness. Cynthia and I had the Moussaka. That was not even a question when he read the description; ground beef layered with eggplant, tomato and homemade Bechamel sauce. We absolutely loved this dish. I can't wait to have it again....and again.

What birthday is complete without a birthday dessert. They brought out a Tsoureki. What is tsoureki.... it's a dark chocolate mousse with whipped cream and a thin later of sweet bread sprinkled with toasted almonds drizzled with homemade chocolate syrup. After she blew off the candle, the dessert vanished almost as fast as she could blow out the flame of the candle with the help of everyone.

We can't wait to go back and perhaps try their signature dish; Rack of Lamb. I also want to sample the watermelon with feta salad and the many other things they have on their menu.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Returning to J. Nichols Kitchen

Seven months ago, we had dinner at J Nichols Kitchen and it seemed to be a disaster. We were not happy with the service and the food.

The manager at the time apologized and invited me to come back and try it again. Though I was not eager to go back that soon, I waited a good 7 months. After Saturday mass a few weeks ago, 4 of us decided to give it another chance.

It was cold outside and somehow the Homemade Meatloaf sounded appealing to me. I figured, how can anyone screw up a meatloaf. Gary decided on the Brick Boneless Half Chicken, citrus onions, Cuban mojo sauce, jasmine rice with black beans. Sandi had the Kung Pao Cashew Chicken with beans, scallions, jasmine rice with sub crispy tofu on request. Ramon had the Bucatini with homemade cheese stuffed meatballs.

We were all surprised as everything was delicious. My meatloaf was the best I have ever had. It was so moist and flavorful; perfect for a cold evening. Gary's chicken was good judging by the sounds he emitted. Sandi thought the Kung Pao was a bit too salty; Gary and I thought it was perfect! Even Ramon's meatballs were surprisingly enjoyable.

It was time for dessert and we were all leery.....if the entrees were really good, the desserts may disappoint us. We took a chance. We ordered the Brownie Sundae with candied pecans, caramel and vanilla ice cream and the Key Lime Pie. Both very good desserts which was a good finale to our dinner.

Thanks to Connie, the manager who took really good care of us. I always say that a good restaurant will always try and make things right if they truly care about their customers and J. Nichols Kitchen in one of those restaurants.

J. Nichols Kitchen is located at 4375 Glencoe Ave. in Marina Del Rey, California.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


From Berlin to Las Vegas.....Sandi and I decided that for Christmas, we would not give each other presents. Instead, we were to treat ourselves to 2 nights in Las Vegas. Of course this meant having good meals, it's the main reason we go. It was a given that one of the dinners would have to be at Andrea's at the Encore in Las Vegas. The last time were we were there was 2 years ago when we celebrated Sandi's birthday and my mom's 84th birthday; the only thing is my mom was MIA. (missing in action) on account on the 24 hr bug. My brother Gary, Sandi & I had a wonderful time: See previous blog:

This time, it was just Sandi and myself. Since we had some appetizers and champagne at our hotel with a couple of friends, we were not overly hungry. Our server Moon was the same server we had 2 years ago. Nice, friendly and pregnant, she was as professional as ever. We ordered several small plates. One of them was the most incredible Brussels Sprouts cooked in ponzu sauce. The sprouts were dissected into numerous leaves; they were crispy and overly delicious! I don't know if they were fried or baked.....don't really care as they were so good. We also ordered the Rock Shrimp Tempura which we have had before and the Crab Adobo Fried Rice; both as good as we remembered them to be.  We had to have rice and what better way than to order the one with crab. We could not resist ordering the Ramen Wagyu Burger. We loved it; tender wagyu beef with a wonderful sauce which enhanced the juicy burgers served between 2 Ramen patties.

We were full by the time we cleaned all plates and before we could order desserts, Chef Elevado sent us a beautiful creation in a big bowl. It had a peanut butter flavored cheesecake, crumbled peanut butter cookies at the bottom, banana ice cream, bacon almond brittle and sliced bananas. I must confess that Sandi does not like cheesecake and I do not like peanut butter. We absolutely loved this "Velvet Elvis " dessert. Apparently, Elvis loved bananas, peanut butter and cheesecake. Who knew, the King had good taste in food as well.....Viva Las Vegas!!!!

Our thanks to Chef Elevado; it's always a pleasure.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Brasserie Desbrosses

Though Germany does not celebrate Thanksgiving, the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin had a Thanksgiving menu available at the Brasserie Desbrosses.

The Thanksgiving menu was to be served family style. We were first served a Corn Cream Soup with cornbread which was delicious. The turkey was stuffed with dried fruits, bacon, pumpkin and sweet potato puree. Extra stuffing was served on the side. The vibrant colors of the vegetables made it more appetizing; they were as good as it looked.  Our server came with the turkey on a cart as he carved and sliced with a precision of a surgeon. Everyone was impressed with how good and juicy it was considering half the people in our party were not turkey fans. The cranberry sauce that came with it only added to the superior taste.

The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin Honey Glazed Ham, jus and caramelized root vegetables was equally enjoyed by all; especially the fat!

Dessert had to be the all American Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie. Most of us ate the apple pie as not too many like pumpkin. Again, the pie did not disappoint.

Funny, though we Americans are used to cooking turkey, I must say that the chef at Brasserie Desbrosses did a super fabulous job, it was better than any turkey I have ever had.

To the Chef at Brasserie Desbrosses:  Vielen dank fuer das hervorragende Abendessen.