Thursday, March 31, 2016

Love & Salt

A friend had given me a $50 gift card for my birthday last year. The day finally came to experiment to see what Love & Salt was all about. I did not make reservations as I was not sure what time we would get there from seeing a great movie at the Laemmle Royal in West Los Angeles. In case you are curious about the movie; it was titled "Remember" with Christoper Plummer and Martin Landau.
Back to the restaurant....we got there at 5:40 p.m. They have only been open for 10 minutes. We had no reservations so they told us we could sit anywhere as long as we are done by 7:00 p.m. Not a problem.

Love & Salt is "Italian" inspired with a "California"soul. They have Wood Oven Pizza, a few house made pasta, vegetables & grains and some fish and steaks. Our very knowledgeable server explained that most of the plates were small and meant to be shared. Sandi had her eye on the Creste di Gallo, slow braised lamb ragu with reggiano parmesan. It was aldente and good but we both agreed we have had better lamb ragu. I asked the server about the Grilled Mediterranean Octopus with chorizo, crispy potatoes, preserved lemon and salsa verde. She assured me it was tender and not rubbery. She was right as the octopus was very tender indeed. It too was delicious but it didn't "grab me" with it's tentacles.

We also decided to order a pizza to share. The Duck Egg sounded good with pancetta, panna, potato, rosemary,  mozzarella and parmesan. It arrived with a raw egg on top and as soon as I took a picture, the server poked the egg yolk as it flowed on to the rest of the pizza. The server helped distribute the yolk to the rest of the pizza. The crust was thin which was nice, though Sandi made the comment that it was not crispy enough. Again, we both liked it but would we want a repeat?

I have to say we were both full even with the smaller plates. The best part of our dining experience was perhaps the dessert. It was the simplest but most delicious gelato; Marionberry Lemon. We shared one scoop and it was quite satisfying.

Love & Salt is located at 317 Manhattan Beach Blvd. in Manhattan Beach California.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Dinner 2016

Last year Sandi invited us to her house for Easter dinner. I think she felt compelled to do a repeat performance. As usual, her table setting was set beautifully in pastel colors. I brought some color coordinated chocolate eggs and bunnies. She had lots of hors d'oeuvres, including olives stuffed with blue cheese which was very good with Champagne.

Her main entree was an Easter Ham. She insisted on making ham even if she doesn't like ham because she abides by the rule that on Easter, one should serve ham. I like ham so who am I to argue especially when she announced that she was planning to serve it with 2 kinds of sauces; pineapple and a raisin sauce.

I could not decide which sauce was better; they were equally delicious with the ham. The Macaroni and Cheese was perfect with the panko topping mixed with with garlic and Parmesan cheese then fried. The Brussels Sprouts were roasted with chili, garlic sauce and sweet soy sauce. Those veggies were not enough so she had to make Multi-colored Baby Carrots and some Coleslaw. She was afraid that would still not be enough so she bought some Potato Salad.

Since none of us are shy in any way, we ate till we could eat no more.....aside from the impending dessert.  We seem to always have room for that. I baked an Apricot Cream Strudel.  I wish I could take full credit on making it but all I did was buy it frozen from Mishi's Strudel and then popped it in the oven. Sandi served it with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

As we consumed what seemed to be everything on the dinner table, we relaxed a bit. Aaron turned the news on the television as we watched another one of Los Angeles car chases wherein the bad guy drove on the freeway and and residential areas in high speed. The cops finally did a pit maneuver and the person got out of the car....the guy turned out to be a gal! She had her hands up and as she walked towards the police car when she suddenly went for the driver's seat of the patrol car. She was going to run away from them. Luckily, the police was fast enough to stop her.

Family, great food and entertainment. What more can you ask for on an Easter Sunday......thank you Sandi, for inviting your other family.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Panera's Mushroom Souffle

If you haven't had the egg souffle's of Panera Bread, you are missing out. These are the best items to order. It beats any bagels, sandwiches, pastries etc. etc. My favorite has always been the Artichoke Souffle. A few weeks ago the lady in front of me ordered a Mushroom Souffle. The saleswoman told her they were out of it.  I asked the lady about it and she said they're new and it's delicious.

The following week, I saw the Mushroom Souffle sitting with it's siblings. I ordered one. I was shockingly surprised on how delicious it was. How can anything this good come out of a Panera Bread Store; life truly is full of surprises. The souffle had roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, onion and Romano, Parmesan, Cheddar and Neufchatel Cheese.

An Egg Souffle with a cup of the dark roast coffee and you will be ready to conquer the day. I must warn you that they run out of these souffles as early as 9:00 a.m. I called and asked them why they don't make a lot to begin with so as not to run out.  Their response was because some people come and buy a bunch of them. When that happens early enough, they cook another batch.

Panera Bread has many locations. Hopefully there is one near you.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Stuff

So far, Good Stuff has been thriving at the Promenade in Rolling Hills Estates. It has not been there very long so it might be premature to say that it is doing great judging by the crowd inside.

My friend Yvonne invited me for breakfast the other day. She is an alumni of Good Stuff. Even the waiter greeted her like a long lost friend. She used to go almost everyday in Redondo Beach, with her mother, who has since passed away.

I asked her what was good at this restaurant. She mentioned that the waffles were good. They had 1/2 a waffle with eggs on the menu. I was going to order that but decided instead on a whole waffle. I was not allowed to order that; she suggested I needed to order some protein; eggs. She was looking at "the Basic" on the menu. This included 2 eggs, potatoes, 4 pieces of bacon and a side of either toast or pancakes. We ordered 1 of each so we could split the pancakes (2 came in an order).

I was starving as I had worked out earlier at the gym so by 8:30 I was experiencing full blown hunger. The breakfast was as good as can be. I ate my 1 large pancake, 2 fried eggs, potatoes, and all 4 pieces of bacon.

Yvonne was not as hungry as I was, judging by her left overs. She only ate 1 egg, 2 pieces of bacon, a few bites of potatoes and half her pancake. I on the other hand, cleaned my plate out!

I will have to go back and try their waffles next time. I thank Yvonne for a very filling breakfast.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hikari Japanese BBQ and Grill

On my way to Sandi's house, I noticed something different in the corner of Lomita Blvd. and Pennsylvania Ave. in Lomita. There was a new restaurant right next to Patisserie Chantilly. Hikari Japanese BBQ and Grill; 2383 Lomita Blvd. Suite 102.

We were the first customers for the evening. There was one long communal table in the center and several other tables along the walls. We immediately noticed there were heating elements on each table so I was ready to drag Sandi out the door but thought of asking if they have other dishes we didn't have to cook ourselves. We were in luck as there were numerous items on the menu that were cooked by the chef.

It took us awhile to make up our minds. Masaki, our young male server was very patient and eager to explain the menu to us. We finally decided on 2 dishes to split. The first one was called Bibimbap. Sandi said she liked the name and the description sounded good; it is essentially mixed rice with meats and vegetables and an egg. This is presented on a stone pot that is very hot and we allow the Bibimbap to cook a bit. Masaki asked us if we like our rice a bit burnt....oh yes! He mixed everything and swept the rice and flattened it with a spoon on the sides of the hot stone to continue cooking.

The other dish which I ordered was the Sauteed Pork Belly and Eringi Mushrooms with Miso Butter Sauce. This was unbelievably mouth watering. I ate it with the Bibimbap but towards the end of the meal, I just poured the left over sauce aka butter miso in my rice. The serving was quite small. We thought of ordering another Bibimbap or Pork Belly. For two people, you really need more than 2 dishes. Because of the small servings, we definitely had room for dessert.

Only one thing caught my eye and that was the French Toast. I thought it was odd to have this as a dessert. We had to try it. It was definitely quality and not quantity. Super yummy as the bread was thoroughly soaked so each bite was wonderful.

Masaki was going to introduce us to Chef Takeshi but he was too busy preparing a dinner for a party of 20 last night. Perhaps we will meet him next time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sandi's Chili & Key Lime Pie

Everyone has their own Chili recipe but sometimes it's what you put on it that adds that extra pizzazz.

Sandi served it with a dollop of sour cream and Fritos Corn Chips.  When I tasted how good that was, the dollop multiplied and ended up more like 1/4 cup. The Fritos which was a bit salty balanced the spiciness of the chili. She served this with Corn Bread from a mix that she bought from Trader Joe's. It was delicious and even more so when we applied some of the honey butter she made. This was a healthy meal on account of the beans which were packed with antioxidants, fiber, protein, vitamin B, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium. To make up for the sour cream and fritos, she made a healthy salad.

What is dinner without dessert....not a dinner! I have always loved her Key Lime Pie. She finally decided to make it. I am still madly in love with it and now even Piero fell in love with it. This pie had a chocolate graham cracker crust which which is always perfect with something tart. The fluffy meringue was the "icing on the cake".

What a nice dinner on a cold night. Grazie mille Sandi!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Newcomers at Dominique's Kitchen

I take great pleasure in introducing newcomers to Dominique's Kitchen. Amy and Nako are old timers (not age wise) to the restaurant. Everyone has been very busy but we finally managed to find time to get together two weeks ago.

I was in luck this time as they had Mussels! The exciting thing about this is that everyone loves mussels. My regular eating partner who shall remain nameless does not like mussels or oysters. Dominique's mussels are so delicious and the juice is even more so that I am sure you will have the urge to ask for a straw and just sip it all in! This was a great appetizer together with the wonderful Cheese Fondue that can't be topped especially with the garlic fries.

For our entrees, Lisa decided on the Roasted Scottish Salmon served with sauteed kale, black olives, tomato and olive oil emulsion. Bryce had their famous Roasted Chicken in olive oil and garlic fries. You can't go wrong with their chicken and the extra au jus. Amy ordered the Mushroom Risotto. I had forgotten how good that was, with portobello and shitake mushrooms cooked with champagne, cream, garlic and of course parmesan cheese. Next time I will have to get that. Nako and I had the Grilled Prime Ribeye cooked in a brandy green peppercorn reduction. Steaks were cooked to perfection and the sauce was truly delectable.

Everyone was too full for dessert but I didn't want to leave without Lisa and Bryce trying the Baked Alaska. We ordered one to share. It was a hit. How can anyone not admire the presentation of a flambeed dessert and have it equally palatable.

Dominique's Kitchen is still going strong. They are always busy and the reason is quite elementary. Very good food, reasonable prices and good service. What more can you ask for? Dominique's Kitchen is located at 522 S. Pacific Coast Hwy. in Redondo Beach, California. They open at 4 p.m. for dinner every day except Tuesdays.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Azure Mediterranean Grill

My foodie friend Jody sent me a text from a newly opened Mediterranean restaurant with a picture of a Feteer. All she had to tell me was I should go try it.

Yesterday, Sandi and I decided to go have a very early dinner; 4:00 p.m. We got there and the place was empty. I believe they have been open only for a month. The place was spacious, nicely decorated with pictures of Omar Sharif, Luciano Pavaroti. Sophia Loren etc. on a post and some artifacts and interesting mirrors on the entrance wall. We found ourselves a nice private booth and felt at home.

As we scanned the menu, we saw the Feteer. The description read: An authentic delight which came to life by the pharaohs in ancient Egypt, considered one of the healthiest and most expensive meals at the time.  Freshly baked dough made from scratch with only flour and water, stuffed with your favorite ingredients in a modern day twist. In those days, I don't think they had to worry about cholesterol as their diet really seemed healthy. I am pretty sure they didn't have "Savory Feteers" like Cream Cheese and Mushroom Feteer, Cheese Lovers Feteer, Italian sausage or Meat lovers feteer. We decided to try the Cream Cheese & Mushroom Feteer with green peppers. Before that, we were served some pita bread and hummus.

We also ordered the Fried Cauliflower with tahini sauce and lemon, an appetizer which was discounted as it was still "happy hour".  We could not agree on which meat to order so we compromised and got the Azure Sample Slider; 3 sliders of Falafel, Chicken Shawerma with garlic sauce and Beef Shawerma with Tahini. To make the long story short I highly recommend getting your choice of Feteer, the Cauliflower and Beef Shawerma. Everything we had was mighty tasty and packed with wonderful flavors.

Our server, Farrah brought us an alcoholic drink to sample. Though they were not sure what to name it, they almost decided on naming it La Nuit Rouge (French for the Red Night) it was a Merlot with hibiscus. I didn't think I would like it as I don't like flavors of flowers in any drinks but this was wonderful. It was sweet and again, I normally do not like sweet wine but this was different. It complemented the food quite well.

The daughter of the owner, Salma came out and asked us how we liked everything. We told her how we enjoyed the dinner. Sandi thought she was too full for dessert. I too was full but had a bit of room for dessert. Salma had us sample the Kunafe with cheese. It is finely shredded phyllo dough stuffed with sweet cream and honey. We ate the entire slice!

Just as we finished our Kunafe, Moe the owner came to our table. He was a very pleasant man and as we walked out we talked about the pictures he had on the post. He mentioned that there would be a belly dancer performing this coming Saturday. Azure is at 1810 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Redondo Beach. It is next to Ortega 120. They have plenty of parking and are open everyday from 11:00 to 10:00. On weekends they are open until 11:00 p.m. They have Happy Hour where some items are discounted as well as beer and wine. We can't wait to try more of Azure....I am sure you too will like Azure.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Le Grande Orange Cafe

I've never been to the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Last weekend we were invited by a friend and after walking around for 4 hours, we were all starving and ready to have a late lunch.

We ended up at Le Grande Orange Cafe at 260 S. Raymond Ave. at the historic Del Mar Train Station in Pasadena. I was confused on what kind of restaurant this was since it had a French name but the menu was American/Mexican; oh well as long as the food was good, they could call it any name they see fit.

We had no reservations but at 2:30 p.m. we thought it would be no problem getting in. It wasn't a problem but we ended up waiting close to half an hour. The place was busy with mostly families with babies and toddlers. When we finally got seated, we had to figure out a strategy on how and what to order. There were too many things that looked appetizing. We all agreed on a pitcher of White Sangria. It was highly recommended by our server. It was very good; I've never had white sangria before. I just found a new friend.

For our appetizer we all thought we would split an order of Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes. It looked nice and light, served with creme fraiche. We got one each. It was one of the best pancakes I have had. We all loved it...I say it.... because we just got 1 each. I could have eaten all three.

Piero had the Short Rib Taco; braised short ribs with kale salad. That was very good but I would not order that since you had to make little tacos; it was not "ready made". Having to make them would be distracting to me and would take away from my eating pleasure.

Sandi had the Sandy's Green Chile Burger with fresh roasted green chiles and melted Tillamook cheddar. I had a bite of that and liked it a lot. I had the Crab Cake Benedict which had jumbo lump crab, spinach topped with a generous amount of Hollandaise sauce. The poached egg was perfect as I pierced it with my fork, the yolk ooozed out like lava flowing from a volcano.

We all can't wait to go back and try other things or maybe even order the same dishes as they were very good. I just wish Pasadena was closer to Palos Verdes as I have been craving for those Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes ever since I've had it.