Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Burrata with Black Truffles

I was at Bristol Farms Market this afternoon to get my free orange juice but before that I walked by the cheese section and sampled a couple of them. I was there to buy some Burrata cheese since I still had fresh tomatoes from Amy's garden and another that Sandi bought from the Farmers Market. I spotted the Burrata Cheese with Truffles! I have never had that before. I love truffles and I love burrata so how can I go wrong. All I did was cut up the tomatoes, added salt and pepper. I then got one of 2 balls of burrata, opened it up and spread the cheese on top of the tomato; sprinkled a bit more salt and pepper and topped them with fresh basil then poured some Glazed balsamic vinegar.

While I was there, I got a small French baguette and a jar of Rao's Puttanesca Sauce; went on to the produce section and got a small container of ready made greens and French bread croutons. I already had some spaghetti at home. As soon as I got home, I got my spaghetti boat out and proceeded to cook the spaghetti in the microwave. Note: When using the boat, always reduce cooking time to make sure you get the pasta "aldente". I warmed the sauce and just dumped the cooked pasta in it.

The greens I got were so pretty, it had some edible petals that made the salad pop. All I did was add the croutons I bought, poured some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I also added salt and pepper. Because of my laziness, instead of having another saucer for the tomatoes, I just topped the salad with the tomato.

Everything was delicious especially with a glass of  Barolo wine.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Amy's 87th Birthday at Good Old Lawry's

Amy is an incredible woman. She just turned 87 and is in great shape. She does not think she is in great shape since she has the occasional arthritic pain in her knees or shoulders but considering everything, I can only wish I could be as strong as she is when I turn 87. She still goes to the gym with her husband 5 days a week and paints (oil), does gardening and cleans constantly. If that's her secret, I don't have many years left!

Last night we celebrated her birthday at one of her favorite restaurants; Lawry's Prime Rib in Beverly Hills. As soon as we got there, we helped ourselves to their meatballs and fabulous homemade potato chips. We brought our own salt as it always lacks salt. I had previously requested for Ms. Sagent, the server we got to know but was informed that she doesn't come till later, but they would have her come to say hello to  us when she arrived. We started with a bottle of their very nice Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Our server this time was Ms. Armendiaz who we found a delight. She brought us a basket of warm "very" sour dough bread which we all loved. Sandi was only allowed 1 piece as she very often cannot finish her entree on account of too much bread.  Shortly after the bread, Ms Armendiaz came and performed her act of spinning the salad but not before she served us our very own chilled forks. The salad was good as usual. It's never the same when you make this at home even if you have the right ingredients.

We all had the Prime Rib with creamed horseradish and the usual mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and creamed corn. Some had half and half: creamed corn and creamed spinach. Everyone had left overs except me. I cleaned my whole plate; I had nothing to take home!

Ms. Armendiaz came back with another server and began to sing "Happy Birthday" to Amy and brought her a slice of the English Trifle. Desserts were included with our dinner. Nako and Amy brought theirs home. Sandi and I had the Créme Brûlée. We requested it to be burnt. It was perfectly burnt. Ms. Sargent came to say hello to us. I must say, the women that work there all seem to enjoy what they do. It is not merely a job for them, you can tell they aim to please. Other restaurants should take note!

We all were whining at the end of the meal as we were too full to move. It almost felt like we should all have been wheeled out on wheelchairs; at least the 3 of them. I could have used a wheelbarrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Champagne Teaspoon When You Don't Have a Stopper

You may or may not have heard that when you are unable to find a champagne stopper for left-over champagne, you could use a spoon or teaspoon. Huh???

I tried it yesterday but first, I have to inform you that this was a "sparkling wine" Schloss Biebrich from Germany. It's our everyday pretend champagne which is quite delicious and very inexpensive. I didn't want to experiment on the "real" champagne in case it didn't work.

I opened a bottle yesterday and had a little less than half a bottle left.  I was able to find a teaspoon with a handle slim enough to fit in the mouth of the bottle. I had forgotten all about the bottle till I saw it this evening. I took the teaspoon out and poured some in a glass. I was very surprised to see bubbles! I expected it to be flat, especially since there was space between the lip of the bottle and the handle of the teaspoon.

I don't know the scientific explanation for this; maybe the metal interacting with the carbon dioxide. I am not a scientist, an engineer nor a physicist. I only know what I did and it did work. So next time you misplace your stopper, get a teaspoon and stick it in the champagne bottle. Better yet, drink the entire bottle so you won't have to worry about a stopper or a teaspoon and you'll be happier!

Monday, August 22, 2016


I saw pictures of these chocolates on the internet and I was hypnotized. I was surprised to find out that Compartés has been around since 1950 and likes of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley were repeat customers. They also have supplied chocolates to events like the Oscars and Emmy's.

I was intrigued by the Roses and Rosé Chocolate Bar. It's a pink chocolate bar infused with rosé wine with edible crystallized rose petals. I totally loved the flavor however I found it to be much too sweet. I shared this with several people and they all thought the same. At $9.95, I would not buy it again.

The other chocolate I ordered was a box of Fleur de Sel (salted) Caramels. This was a winner. Not only did it look beautiful but it was delicious. These homemade salted caramels are made with real Tahitian vanilla beans and French sea salt. The caramels are dipped into a rich dark chocolate. The slight bitterness of the chocolate was perfect with the salted caramel. When you bite into one or if you decide to pop the whole thing in your mouth (I never recommend this as I always think one should take small bites to truly savor the chocolate), the crisp shell cracks and surrenders to the salted caramel which is quite an explosion. At $25.00 for a box of 10, I expect something to happen and indeed it did!

Compartés has 2 locations in Los Angeles; one in Brentwood and the other on Melrose. They also have a website you can order from.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back to Azure

We haven't been to Azure in a long time so last night Sandi and I thought it was time to see if the food is still good. We weren't very hungry so we decided to just order the Fried Cauliflower and the Cheese Lovers Feteer.

They were both still very good. You can't go wrong with either of those. First we had our veggies then the wonderful cheesy feteer with small pieces of crisp bell peppers. I really love vegetables when they're dressed! That was our protein and lots of calcium for the day.

We really were pleasantly full but it was hard not to order the Nutella (which I normally dislike) Feteer. That too was too good with chopped pistachios on top but also too sweet to eat more than two. It's really good for a crowd. We took the leftovers home for dessert for another day.

Azure is located at 1810 S. Pacific Coast Hwy. in Redondo Beach, California.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Delicious Corn on the Cob

The other day Sandi decided to make a BLT sandwich for dinner. She had a beautiful tomato she got from the Farmers Market. This was a very simple BLT, with my favorite Japanese mayonnaise. She didn't even toast the bread and it was simply delicious.

She never makes a sandwich without the trimmings. While at the Farmers Market, she bought some fresh corn on the cob. I normally just microwave these but she baked them in the oven wrapped in foil with a paste made with mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese. That corn was outstanding. That was plenty for a "simple dinner" but since Sandi is incapable of "simple", she had to cook some French fries. Japanese mayo squeezed on the fries was the best. Again, we had carbs plus carbs plus more carbs except for the bacon, our protein and fat. I have to mention that Aaron didn't care for the corn. He had 1 bite and that was it. I hate to see food end up in the trash so I sacrificed once more and ate his corn.

With all that starch, dessert had to be a bit healthier; Blueberry Cobbler. There's our fruit for the day!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Santol, the Fruit

If you're not from the Philippines or any part of Southeast Asia, chances are you've never heard of the fruit Santol. It's a fruit that when fully ripe is very sweet though not too easy to eat. You mainly suck on the big seeds inside the fruit. Sometimes it is peeled and people eat the rind which is a bit tart with rock salt. Here's a link that shows what the fruit looks like.

While I was in the Philippines, I bought several bottles of prepared Santol from the famous Blue Kitchen. My first dinner with my family was at a restaurant called Abe. There I had shrimps cooked in Santol; something I have never heard of before. So naturally, when I saw these bottles of santol, I knew I had to buy some.  The ingredients were not listed on the bottle unlike here in the U.S. when you have to list ingredients. I know they used the rind of the santol and probably added shrimp paste and some chillies which made it spicy.

I sauteed some shrimps in butter and emptied my last 2 jars of santol. This of course had to be served with steamed rice. Sandi, Otto and I enjoyed it. Sandi of course had it when she was in the Philippines. Amy and Nako thought it was "different". That could be a polite way of saying "it's not that good".

I served a salad of spinach and mixed greens with a dressing made with Chipotle olive oil and Peach Balsamic Vinegar. Everyone loved that. Amy brought some fresh tomatoes from their garden along with a mayonnaise dip. There's nothing like fresh grown tomatoes! The other entree I served was Chicken cooked in Coconut Milk. This was my moms recipe. It's very easy to make. You just lay chicken pieces in pan; put salt and pepper on them and lots of crushed garlic and whole peppercorns. Then you pour vinegar to cover the chicken. When the chicken is almost cooked, you pour 2 cans of coconut milk and simmer till it thickens (it could take awhile). Adjust according to your taste. If too sour, add more salt. This taste even better the day after. This too has to be served with steamed white rice.

 Amy and Nako survived the dinner. One thing about making dinner for friends (real friends), they are always gracious and we always enjoy each others company even if the food is sometimes strange.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Simple Spaghetti

I thought I should make use of my blooming basil before it all dies. I could only think of one thing; Spaghetti. I didn't feel like doing the one where I simmer the sauce for a couple of hours, especially since it's been hot outside. So, out I went and snipped a bunch of basil, crushed almost a whole head of garlic and chopped half an onion. I bought 3 giant tomatoes a few days ago that said "grown from a vine", don't they normally grow from vines? Anyway, I chopped them up and proceeded in heating some olive oil. I then added the onions and the garlic. When it started to brown, I dumped in the chopped fresh tomatoes. I sauteed it for 10 minutes then added the basil (lots of basil). I was not happy with the tomatoes. They didn't have the slightest acidity. After I doctored the sauce with salt, pepper and some Mirin sauce, it started to come alive. I then added the aldente spaghetti I cooked in my wonderful pasta boat and added a bit of the water from the boat.

I made a no-nonsense salad; just greens with spinach and some pecans and dried cranberries. Sandi has given me a small bottle of Apple White Balsamic Vinegar which I used along with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Just as we started to eat the pasta, I remembered that Sandi had brought one of my favorite dishes: corn cooked with tomatoes. She suggested adding it to the pasta. What a great idea. Starch on starch; carbs on carbs....yessss! It made the pasta happy and so were we!

Guilt set in so for dessert we just had 1 Alfajores (Peruvian cookie) each.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Coffee Kisses

It's almost unkind and unfair to even blog about these wonderful Coffee Kisses because you can only get them at Sugarhouse, a bakery with multiple locations in Metro Manila in the Philippines. But....you never know when you would be visiting Manila or when a friend of yours asks you what you want from there. Instead of a stupid t-shirt, key chain, or dried mango which you can buy here in the U.S., ask them to stop by a Sugarhouse bakery and get you a jar (plastic) or two or three of these wonderful meringue.

It's like eating cotton balls. No need to chew. Just plop one in your mouth and magically, it just melts and vanishes. The only problem is you will end up eating half the jar before you realize what you have done. They really are wonderful.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Petros with Piero

This Greek restaurant has been around for many years. Our last adventure at this location in Manhattan Beach, California was memorable. Sandi and I have talked about going there with Piero who has never been there. The three of us decided to have dinner there yesterday.

I brought a bottle of champagne. Their corkage is $15.00. For that you get the chilled champagne glasses but no bucket to keep your champagne cold...oh well.  We got there before 6:00 pm so the place was fairly empty. We started with a nice bread with a Greek dipping sauce. It had lots of garlic and I didn't want to scare of the vampires so I opted for good old cholesterol, butter.

They had a special salad for the evening. It was Agugula with Peaches. We shared this big salad and found it to be quite refreshing and delicious. It was perfect on this summer evening with our Rose champagne.

Sandi and I  decided to split a Moussaka, a classic Greek dish which is layers of eggplant, ground beef, tomatoes and their very own bechamel sauce. The other dish we were to split was the Lamb Pizza which is slow cooked lamb with roasted peppers, broccolini, olives, Kefalotiri and Feta cheese. Both these dishes we have had previously and loved them.

Piero ordered the Kokkinisto; boneless beef short ribs with tomato, allspice broth served over mashed potatoes and topped with Kefalotiri cheese. I was happy he ordered something different so I could try it. He was very happy with his choice and so was I. He too enjoyed the Lamb Pizza and the Moussaka.

We were all full. In fact Sandi could not finish her portion on account of eating bread. Next time, we will just have to make sure the basket of bread is beyond her reach. We still ordered the dessert we loved and that was Bougatsa; vanilla bean semolina custard wrapped in phyllo with vanilla ice cream. Though it was good, we seemed to not enjoy is as much as we did for no particular reason. We will have to venture on different desserts the next time. There will be a next time because their food is really good. I also noticed that they have another Petro's in El Segundo so we will have to see how the ambiance is there.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cynthia's Black & White Tea Party

It started promptly at 2:30 pm. In the invitation, the attire read: Black/White. Not a problem; who does not have a black and white outfit. We were all impressed with her table setting and presentation of everything. We do not expect anything less when it comes to Cindy giving any party at her house. Everything matches; why shouldn't they. She's the "Martha Stewart" of the group. This was a late celebration of her birthday last month.

For hors d'oeuvres, she made cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese mixed with herbs de Provence. She also had strawberries with Devonshire cream, a Bobby Flay recipe. Both were delicious. I had 4 of the sandwiches and at least 4 of the strawberries. The drink she made was quite impressive. A recipe of Giada De Laurentiis, Lemon-Thyme Prosecco. Cindy made her own lemonade and froze it in an muffin tray, so they were slightly larger that regular ice cubes. She plopped a frozen lemonade into a glass, poured some prosecco and dropped in a sprig of thyme. It was delicious but I hardly could taste the thyme so I got some more thyme and crushed some of the leaves. The aroma and the taste was unbelievably yummy. I would definitely make this and serve it to my guests next time.

We sat down for our meal as she served us Cucumber Soup, Shrimp Rolls and a Tomato Salad. The cold cucumber soup was made with whipping cream, rice vinegar and sour cream. The shrimps were first steamed then sauteed in butter then she added a sauce made from mayonnaise, celery, lemon zest and lemon juice. The tomatoes were cooked with panko crumbs which she heated in olive oil, butter and thyme. She then made a dressing with lemon juice, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. If you think you've read about butter or whipping cream a few times, you are right. Cindy loves to cook with lots of butter and whipping cream. We all loved everything; what's there not to love?

Pre-dessert: Chouquett which is a puff pastry with grain sugar on top. This was so good, we all absolutely enjoyed it. It is like a cream puff without the cream; very light and airy. She got this at Desserts by Patrick in Redondo Beach. We also had alfajores which I brought. The main dessert was a Black and White Gelato Cake she also got at Desserts by Patrick. It looked impressive and it was good though I think the chocolate raspberry ice cream at Handel's is better. I did end up putting some of the very rich chocolate gelato inside the chouquett and that was very good. We had a dessert drink to go with the various desserts. It was an Earl Grey Tea Prosecco. She made simple syrup with earl grey tea and added prosecco to it. It was good. The verdict was half and half. Cindy and Sandi preferred this one while Sujata and I preferred the Lemon-Thyme Prosecco.

Before she opened her presents, we had to take pictures of the birthday girl with the birthday balloon which has been passed on once again from Sandi to Cindy. Sandi didn't bother to refill it with helium because Cindy's cat, China Blue is scared of the balloon so Cindy will have to let the air out and keep it for the next birthday celebrant. For party favors, Cindy gave us each a white and black (of course) bag with multiple surprises inside. It was a nice party but we did miss Amy, Mertz and Ana.