Thursday, September 29, 2016

Plates; An American Bistro

I have been wanting to try this fairly new restaurant located at the Promenade at the Peninsula in Rolling Hills Estates, California. Last Saturday, 2 of my friends and I decided to try it before going to see the play "Young Frankenstein" at the Norris Theater which by the way was fabulous.

Sue ordered the Beef Brisket Grilled Cheese with Muenster cheese, mustard, tomato, rapini on multigrain sourdough bread. She did like her sandwich. Sandi had the Grilled Cheese Fingers with bacon, cheddar on a Brioche bread stacked high. The presentation was nice but that was all. It was absolutely tasteless. I had one bite, she took several bites and that was it. I had the Lobster Roll which had big chunks of rubbery lobster and lots of celery. It did not have much flavor. Thank God the homemade potato chips were very good.

The Steak House Fries were fat and again tasteless. I don't know if the chef even tastes the food they send out. The restaurant has a variety of items, from Fish & Chips, to Hangar Steak, various salads, Duck Confit. This was our first time at Plates and I don't know if we will be returning anytime soon because if they can't get a simple Grilled Cheese right, how can I expect the rest to be good. Another observation was when the server saw there was a lot of left over and no one wanted to take it home, he should be trained to at least ask the customer if there was something wrong and if so, he should inform the manager/owner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wonderful French Toast

Just before we headed back to Los Angeles from Big Bear Lake, our friend Mertz had to make us the best breakfast we've had in a long time. French Toast with Grilled Peaches.

She made her French Toast without milk and used thick bread. It was drizzling outside but that did not stop our hostess; she went outside with a big umbrella as she grilled the fresh peaches. She then placed the peaches on the French toast then topped it with a strawberry rhubarb yoghurt. Sandi and I do not like yoghurt. This was exceptionally good; the brand was Noosa.

It was the best breakfast. We almost didn't want to go home. We did not take a walk that morning like the day before. I had asked Mertz if she's ever seen any bears and she said no, not in 16 years. She later informed us that her neighbor sited a mama bear and her cub that morning across from Mertz's house. That was probably the time she was grilling the peaches! Luckily they had the wrong house cuz I would not have shared my French Toast.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bistro at the Mansion

This Bistro is located in the Knickerbocker Mansion; a charming 1920 log cabin (mansion) which is also a Bed and Breakfast located in Big Bear, California. While we were in Big Bear, Mertz had taken us there for brunch. We overlooked beautiful pine trees and a tree trunk filled with holes from woodpeckers. If you look closely at the picture below; the hole to your right shows the head of a woodpecker peeking out.

As soon as we sat down, we were offered Mimosas. The bread basket contained 3 scones. They were quite edible with the sweet butter. We all had a cup of the Gumbo soup which was good. Both Mertz and Sandi ordered the Peaches and Cream; double cream Brie smoked turkey and peach chili jam. I had the Shrimp and Parmesan Grits; creamy polenta, creole shrimp with green onions and bacon. I enjoyed mine but unfortunately, Sandi and Mertz did not enjoy their sandwich. I had a quarter of Sandi's and agreed that it was "odd". We couldn't really put our fingers on what was wrong. It lacked flavor for sure.

The brunch was still fun because of the ambiance and the company. It was nice to catch up with our friend while being interrupted by the "knocking" of the woodpeckers. The Knickerbocker Mansion is at 869 Knickerbocker Rd. in Big Bear, California.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Guests at Mertz's Cabin

Consider yourself lucky if  Mertz invites you to her cabin in Big Bear. Sandi and I finally took her up on her invitation. After the 2-1/2 hour drive from Los Angeles up the mountain with the last 30 minutes of beautiful but winding roads, we were welcomed with champagne, a vegetable quiche and fabulous sourdough baguette slices which were brushed with sausage drippings, toasted and topped with feta cheese mixed with mayonnaise, bacon, tomato jam and basil.

After we relaxed and toured her cabin, we decided to do some hiking; more like window shopping in the town of Big Bear.  This was a necessity so as to burn calories and make room for the dinner she had planned for us. She took us to The Pines, a lovely restaurant overlooking the lake. Mertz and Sandi had a salad and I opted for the Salmon Vegetable Soup which looked and tasted much better than their salad. For our entrees, it was "to each her own". Mertz had the Pork Chops with sour cream sherry sauce which she said was delicious. Sandi had the Chicken Marsala and I had the Chicken stuffed with goat cheese and spinach. My stuffed chicken was much better than Sandi's marsala. The marsala sauce either didn't have enough marsala or it could have just been too "starchy". We didn't bother to order dessert as Mertz had something planned when we got home.

As soon as we got back to the cabin, she made us a nice alcoholic dessert drink. It was called Buffalo Milk which had Kahlua, Creme de Cacoa, ice, half and half, and frozen bananas. It should have had vodka but she left that out so as not to cook our brains.This was more like a milk shake; a very good milkshake. Even Sandi who is not used to drinking, drank the whole glass (she finished first). We were supposed to sip this baby while we watched television but that did not happen as it was just too good not to inhale the shake! It was a good way to end the evening. The 3 of us were so relaxed and just happy to be together!

Sandi and I thank Mertz for the invitation. We truly had a ball!!!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dinner, Egyptian Style

Sandi and I were invited for dinner at Fairoz and Medhat's "weekend home" in Long Beach right in front of the Pacific Ocean. It was a beautiful afternoon as we sat on the patio overlooking Long Beach.

Fairoz told us that she was making something very simple and light for dinner. Her idea of simple and light is exactly like Sandi's idea of simple and light. She served a salad with a very thin wheat pita bread which went well with the Chicken Kabob, Beef Kofta, Rice with Cauliflower and Potatoes. It was enough to serve at least 8 people (there were only 4 of us). Though we have eaten kabobs and koftas in restaurants, it is so different when it is truly homemade. I asked Fairoz how she made the potatoes as they were outstanding. She said she would show me how to make it next time. I think I might send Sandi to watch and I will be more than happy to wait for the finished product.

When we thought we could not eat anymore, she brought out some fresh fruit, again enough for a battalion and a very special treat. It was a Baklava that her daughter brought. This was Syrian Baklava which was quite different from what I have had in the past. It didn't have that sicky overly sweet taste. It was the best baklava Sandi and I ever had.

At the end of the evening we went up on the rooftop and admired the full moon and the night lights of Long Beach.  We ended up staying for 5 hours. Thank you Fairoz and Medhat for a lovely evening.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Back to Valentien

The last time we were at this restaurant was in July for Bastille Day. Sandi and I could not wait to go back for their delicious and unforgettable Steak Au Poivre with Pommes Frites in a cognac sauce. At the time, we met a couple who sat next to us and we couldn't avoid conversing with them. By the end of the evening we exchanged email and phone numbers. Since we were going to be in Bakersfield again, I called them up to see if they wanted to join us for dinner. They were happy to oblige.

Last night I brought a bottle of  French champagne which the 4 of us enjoyed but what Sandi and I enjoyed more was the bottle of Chardonnay Bernard and Bee brought. I rarely drink white wine since I prefer red. This Chardonnay was unlike any other I have ever tried; it was crisp and very smooth, no hint of bitterness which I find in most chardonnays.  It was Grgich 2013 "Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay" from Napa Valley. A movie called Bottle Shock  came out in 2007 about Steven Spurrier, a sommalier in Paris played by the great Alan Rickman who proved that California wines are better than French wines in the "Judgment of Paris", a blind wine tasting event. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Mike Grgich was voted the finest white wine in the world as the news shocked everyone after it was published in Time magazine. FYI, 30 years after the 1976 blind tasting, Mr. Spurrier conducted another competition in 2006 and California won again!

Fast forward to the food. We had to limit our French bread and salted butter intake since we decided to have appetizers. We were all intrigued by the Artichoke Pancake; caramelized red onions, fresh goat cheese, tomato confit and baby spinach. Sandi and I split one.  Bernard had the Pumpkin Ravioli which had a lot of flavor and was aldente and Bee had the Artichoke Pancake. It was delicious. Sandi and I split a cold soup made with coconut milk and strawberry. We just had to try that one. That was a total winner. It was creamy, savory with just the right amount of tang from the strawberry; a perfect summer soup.

For our entrees, three of us had the Steak Au Poivre with Pommes Frites with extra cognac sauce on the side. Jeramy Brown, the owner came to make sure everything was perfect. He is a "hands-on" kind of guy. I have been to restaurants wherein the owner/manager just walks around like strolling in a park with no regard to anything else. Bee had the Basque Style Ling Cod with piperade sauce with pan fried chickpeas. She enjoyed the very fresh fish. I had a bite of the chickpeas and they were nice and crunchy.

Dessert was a no-brainer for me and Sandi. It had to be the Chocolate Souffle with the vanilla ice cream. Bee and Bernard shared the seasonal Sorbet with strawberries with a nice sauce. Though the sorbet looked good and refreshing, Sandi and I  were quite happy with our souffle.

It was a wonderful evening spent with new friends in this still very good restaurant. Jeramy, keep up the good work. To the Barmann's, we look forward to our next gastronomic adventure.

Valentien is located at 3310 Truxton Ave., Suite 160 in Bakersfield, California.