Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Dinner at Home

Invited friends; Fairoz, Medhat and Sandi over for a simple pre-Halloween dinner. The menu was a Salad, Shepherd's Pie and Ginger-Maple Vegetables with Pecans.  Appetizers consisted of cheese and crackers, grapes and Sandi's Meatballs which are always a hit.

The Shepherd's Pie turned out to be very good if I may say so myself. Everyone loved it. The vegetables were good as far as veggies go....not very far. I can't really get too excited but I thought I had to serve it. One of the guests who shall remain nameless did not eat his veggies. He later confessed that he is just not fond of vegetables.

I made a Calamansi Pie for dessert (Philippine lime) and topped it with Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Crisps; Belgian chocolate with crunchy bits. It went well with the tartness of the Calamansi.

It was a fun evening with friends.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Great Maple

I met an old and dear friend  whom I haven't seen in a long time for lunch at the Great Maple in Torrance.

When we finally looked at the extensive menu, I was hoping that they brought back the most incredible Pork Belly Flatbread. See my previous blog that shows and explains what was so wonderful about it.

I was disappointed once more as they have not brought it back. Dora and I settled for the Prosciutto Flatbread with the fried egg. We had them put the egg on the side since Dora was not sure about the egg. I will have to educate her....We also ordered the Burger with truffle fries. The flatbread was very good but nothing like the fantastic Pork Belly. It's like traveling first class then having to settle for business class the next time. The burger was good and the fries made it more enjoyable.

We had so much fun reminiscing on the old times when we worked at the first outpatient surgery center in Torrance (Southwest Surgical Clinic). We are both looking forward to our next eating rendezvous.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hinoki and the Bird

It's been at least a couple of years since I have been to Hinoki and the Bird in Century City. I was curious to see if it was still good since Chefs have come and gone. It was Jody's birthday and since she's never been to Hinoki, I thought it would be a good venue to celebrate her birthday.

We were early so we sat at the bar and ordered drinks. I had a glass of red wine and she ordered a Moscow Mule. I've never had this drink before so I had a sip of mule and absolutely loved it.

At 6 pm we were led to our table on the outside covered patio. I was happy to see the the Lobster Roll was still on the menu and so was the signature Hinoki Scented Cod. In addition to these 2 outstanding items, we ordered the Buckwheat Cavatelli with Dungeness crab and uni cream. This too became a favorite of mine. The Roasted Yam with crème fraîche and lardon was recommended by our server, Angela who swore she loved it even if she disliked yams. I too am not fond of yams but she was quite convincing, so we went for it and were very happy to have taken her suggestion.

They no longer had the Crab Toast which I loved; instead, they had the Kabocha Squash Toast with Burrata and Butterscotch Miso! How different is that? This was unexplainable. A look of awe crept into both our faces after the first bite. Another item we ordered was the Crispy Marinated Chicken served with local honey. That was good but not outstanding.

I finished my red wine so I ordered Jody's Moscow Mule and since she didn't want me to feel bad ordering a second drink, she had another one herself. We were both full but we left a little bit of room for dessert. The Miso Donut with honey caramel was shared between the two of us. It was delicious, especially with that nice caramel.

As we finished our donuts, Angela brought a "Happy Birthday" chocolate and fruit dessert for Jody which she enjoyed. Jody was impressed with everything. She loved the ambiance, food and service.
Hinoki and the Bird is located at 10 Century Drive in Los Angeles. It is off of Avenue of the Stars in Century City.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Andrea at Pelican Hill

We were all invited to this restaurant at the beautiful Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach, California.  When I made the reservations, they informed me that they only offered the Express Lunch; a 3 course prix fixe; choice of soup, salad or appetizer, an entree and a gelato.

I ordered champagne for the table though some preferred cocktails which they ordered. The restaurant was not crowded at all so it was very upsetting to me that it was after 1:00 pm by the time everyone (18 people) got their drinks. We were all there at noon though we had to wait for them to remove several place settings since 3 people could not come. The appetizers did not start coming until 1:30 pm. We only had 1 waiter that catered to us and one lady that just filled our water glasses. One of the salads was Arugula with artichokes; that didn't have much flavor. My salad was good but only because it had a ton of prosciutto which is salty so it's hard to screw that up. The Burrata was nothing special. I was not sure about the Endive salad since I didn't get to ask how it was.

Majority of the people ordered the Grilled Sea Bass with baby kale sprouts, roasted potatoes with lemon oil & parsley dressing. It was perfectly cooked though in my opinion it lacked flavor. Some people did like it. The other entreé was the Gnocchi with bolognese sauce. According to Eric, it was good. Ross and I had the Lasagna with mushrooms. That was a complete disappointment. I wanted parmesan cheese and there was no one to ask, all servers must have taken a break. The lady whose job it was to fill the water glasses came, so I asked her for some cheese. By the time she came with the cheese, my pasta was cold. I finished mine only because I was starving as it was past 2:00  pm by then. I must mention that one of the guests talked to the person in charge to let her know that service was so bad and we were waiting too long. She was assured that she would take care of it. She even mentioned that another guest is a food blogger so they better do something! The something was a 20% discount. Trinity had the Risotto which was tasteless and uncooked for her taste so she sent it back and got the Sea Bass instead. I wonder if others were just being polite in saying their food was good.

Our server informed me that someone wanted more champagne towards the end of the meal. He asked if he should just give her a glass and I said yes of course. It turned out, there was still left over champagne in the bottle that one of the guests discovered at the end of our meal. I also discovered 3 more people had more champagne which he took the liberty of just giving them "by the glass". At that point, we could have had another bottle which was unopened, sitting in the bucket of ice.

Dessert came with our "EXPRESS" (slow boat to China), meal. I haven't seen such a tiny serving of gelato in a tiny bowl. I'm glad some people ordered other desserts. I had a bite from Sandi's chocolate with fig dessert; all I can say was it was chocolate and the fig was not ripe enough. A bunch of us ordered coffee and cappuccino. The coffee came but no cream. I had to ask the water lady for cream, so off she went in search for cream. The cappuccinos were all cold! We sent those back. For some miracle, my coffee was real hot so it was still warm when the cream arrived.

I can explain the whole experience in one word; disastrous.  First of all, they should not advertise this prix fixe as Express because nothing was quick; everything was in slow motion. We probably could have taken naps in between the 3 courses. The person in charge didn't approach us to apologize. I guess she thought the 20% was very generous. Not only will I never organize a meal at this restaurant, I am confident the other polite guests will not be returning either.

A good manager would have asked what she could have done to make us happy. I totally do not expect this from a "classy" restaurant in at a 5-star luxury resort. There is definitely no excuse.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Another Simple Dinner

When Fairoz invites you for dinner, it is no ordinary dinner. It is called a feast! She and her husband invited 3 of us for dinner. She swears it was no trouble at all and that she is used to cooking for her family when the kids and grand kids come over.

Hors d' oeuvres were a variety of nuts and an assortment of wonderful Syrian Baklava. That was to wet our appetite of what was to come. When she started bringing the food our their balcony overlooking the ocean, we were all shocked as she brought out the salad which was followed by stuffed potatoes, grilled lamb, barbecued beef kofta, lamb, and "giant" ribeye. For vegetables, she had made stuffed eggplant, peppers and zucchini. At this point, I was expecting a belly dancer to come out to entertain us while we were eating. Everything was delicious and we were all overstuffed like her veggies.

Raymond and Alma brought Sans Rival (French, meaning no rival); a Filipino dessert that is made with layers of buttercream, meringue and chopped cashews. They also brought Brazo de Mercedes; translated is arms of Mercedes. This is another Filipino dessert that is made of soft meringue around a custard filling. The arms of Mercedes were obviously not muscular, they were more dimply or jiggly. Both desserts were edible.

At the end of the evening, we were forced (yeah, right) to take some food home. Since we did not want to hurt Fairoz and Medhat's feelings, we took enough to feed another army. I warned them both that when I have them over for a simple will be just that, very simple. They may have to eat first before coming over!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hors d' Oeuvres

I tried to recreate Mertz's sourdough toasts on my previous blog entitled Guests at Mertz's Cabin.  Instead of reading my blog to refresh my terrible memory, I just thought I would wing it. I bought the sourdough French bread and added a bit of bacon fat to the butter which I spread over the toasted bread. In a bowl, I mixed goat cheese instead of feta (thought she used goat cheese) and added Japanese mayonnaise and bacon jam. I did not get the same flavor so I added a bit of mustard then topped it with a bit of chopped bacon and basil. I had to make a few without the bacon for my vegetarian friend. Everyone thought it was good and it was, but nothing like Mertz's! The first picture is my imitation toasts and below it was Mertz's. Mine looks like it just had the flu!

I found some burrata cheese so I mixed that with some olive oil, salt and balsamic glaze and served them in individual spoons which was very good. I served some cheese which was just ready made from the market with crackers. I also bought Bristol Farms own regular flavor Pita Chips which I think are fried; reason for it being deliciously insane especially after dipping it in their own Chili Con Queso dip!  We had to have something substantial so I got some chicken wings at Wing Stop. They had numerous flavors. I got the Lemon Pepper and the Louisiana Rub which was a bit spicy. They also offer various dips to go with the chicken: ranch, blue cheese, honey mustard and cheese sauce. I liked the ranch since it did not overpower the chicken which already had lots of flavor.

After all the hors d' oeuvres, I served Calamansi Pie (Philippine lime) which I made with Sandi's Key Lime recipe. It was good but not as good as the one I had at Toby's in the Philippines.