Sunday, January 29, 2017

La Montina Franciacorta Rose

My excuse for making this dinner was to serve one  of my favorite wines: La Montina Franciacorta. It's an extra dry sparkling Rose that I discovered on an event held at Obica in Santa Monica. My friends love it as well. You have to try it to believe how nice and refreshing it is.

I recently bought a few jars of condiments from Home Goods. They occasionally have some interesting items that are less expensive than a specialty store or your local market. I didn't know when I would actually have it and with what? I decided to open Olivier's Truffle Mustard from Napa Valley.

For hors d 'oeuvres, I sliced some horseradish cheese with cilantro and placed it on top of the mini crackers. I tried it and though it was good, it needed something creamy or fatty. I thought of the truffle mustard so I dabbed some on it and then topped it with the cheese. Bingo! It's what it needed. The flavor of the mustard and the cheese was perfect.

The dinner was very simple. No salad was served. Just chicken cooked with mushrooms, olives, artichoke pieces in a mushroom and olive tomato sauce (Bertolli) and I added some Mirin sauce. That with Mashed Potatoes with feta cheese made the dish quite edible. Since I didn't serve a salad, I had to make some vegetables to make my 2 friends happy. I cooked some Brussels Sprouts with shallots in bacon fat, chicken stock and topped them with the crumbled bacon. Vegetables can be very exciting with a little (or a lot) fat.

Dessert was a choice of Lemon Cheesecake or Apple Crisp Pie from Polly's Pie. The lemon pie was good but could have been better had it been more tart. The apple crisp was perfect as the apples were firm and not mushy. I did forget to take a picture of that pie from my excitement.

In case you are interested in trying the wonderful wine which is not yet available in stores, feel free to email Elisabetta at: as they are in the process of creating a website. I drove to Long Beach to pick up my case.

Chim! Thai Street Food

A tiny restaurant across from the Fred Astaire Ballroom is where we ended up eating lunch last Saturday. We got there at noon and we were lucky to get a table.

We ordered 2 entrees to split. The Chim!Gai Zaap; crispy chicken, scallions, onion, cilantro, roasted rice in chili lime juice and Panang Beef; panang curry paste with coconut milk, bell peppers and peanut sauce.

Both entrees were delicious and quite spicy. We kept drinking our diet coke in between bites to cool of our mouths. We were glad we took Piero's suggestion to try the restaurant. Chim! Thai Street Food is located at 910 E. Union St. in Pasadena.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Another Simple Lunch

Sandi and I only had 2 hours to spare for this luncheon. Fairoz insisted on making something small since we didn't have enough time to spare due to a prior engagement. As soon as we got there, she apologized for not preparing appetizers since we had little time. She did serve some chips and dip. She did invite another friend so there were 5 of us.

When Meryl arrived, we sat down on their balcony of their condominium which is right by the beach.  It was a crisp and sunny day in Long Beach; a nice break from all the rains we have had. Fairoz's husband, Medhat barbecued some beef and made some short ribs. A bowl of salad arrived followed by the big platter of beef.  Then came a chicken dish with vegetables, As Fairoz disappeared into the kitchen, she picked up another platter of vegetable lasagna and garlic bread. It was overwhelming.

My plate was full. I told them they need to get bigger plates! Everything was as good as it looked.

When we could not eat anymore, she brought out mini cheesecakes and fresh fruit. When it was time to bid farewell, we all got a big container for dinner. Sandi and I were meeting Cynthia for dinner so we ended up having the left overs the following day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

dineLA at Lawry's

We celebrated Piero's birthday at one of his favorite restaurants. The dineLA menu was a bargain as we got not only a nice thick slice of Prime Rib but it included a Lobster Tail. We all showed up earlier than our reservation to take advantage of the Meatballs and their homemade Potato Chips by the bar.

Shortly after we sat at our assigned booth, our server brought out a basket of their warm sour dough bread. If we were smart, we would not have touched it since we already had a few meatballs and some potato chips.....but we are not always smart. We indulged in the nice warm bread with butter.

We ordered a Shrimp Cocktail to share just to tease our appetite. The shrimps were big and plump. Our server came to serve us their famous Spinning Salad. I was able to limit my consumption of the greens in anticipation of a lot of food to come.

Our carver, Anthony came with his big cart. We all ordered our prime rib the way we liked them. We were offered a side vegetable and we unanimously had the creamed corn; the best in the world! As soon as we all had our plates, our server cut portions of the Yorkshire Pudding and gave us all a slice. I lucked out as Sandi gave me her portion. Just looking at the food almost made us full. As we were getting ready to attack our meat, the Lobster Tails arrived with lemon and lots of melted butter. It was overwhelming. I didn't know where to start! The lobster was tender and juicy and even got juicier after it got dunked in the butter. The prime rib was delicious as ever.

When we all thought we couldn't eat anymore, our server asked what we wanted for dessert which was included in the menu. The birthday boy asked for the Flourless (not calorieless) chocolate cake and the rest of us had the Creme Brulee. I asked that they burn the top since that's how we all like it. They did a good job in burning the top. There were no complaints!

Lawry's  is always a good venue to celebrate anything or nothing. Who says you have to have an excuse to eat good food? Lawry's The Prime Rib is located at 100 N. La Cienega in Beverly Hills, California.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Madame Monsieur

I got an email from The Short Stack (Los Angeles Magazine) that really caught my eye. It was a Black Truffle Sandwich in downtown L.A. which required placing the order a day before.

The description was enough for me and many others to want to go right away before the truffles disappeared. Here is the way it was described.

Le Black Truffle Sandwich starts with Breadbar black charcoal bread that gets doused with beurre de baratte—butter made by churning rather than centrifuge–and black truffles imported from Périgord, France (don’t worry, they’re grade Extra Tuber Melanosporum, the highest class in the game). “This sandwich is inspired by a Michelin-starred chef in Paris that is called Michel Rostang, I worked with him a little when I was in Paris,” says Madame Monsieur co-owner Alison Barber. The sandwich needs to marinate overnight, so diners must place their orders one day in advance.

I quickly organized a trip several days ago for a luncheon. Several people already had prior engagements so only 4 of us made a reservation for Saturday, Jan. 21st. They took my credit card information since they were to charge $25 for each sandwich which included a salad and potato chips.

Mertz took the Big Mobile and drove us to downtown L.A. We left at 10:15 a.m. for our 11:30 reservation. What we did not count on was the Women's Demonstration against Trump and everything else you can imagine. Downtown L.A. is confusing enough with one way streets even with a GPS. Imagine that compounded with thousands of people all over the street. There were a lot of street closures and they even continued to close streets as we drove circling and trying to get to our destination. We finally decided to park close to the restaurant and pay a whopping $15 for parking. We walked through the crowds of people.  One lady had a sign that said: "Hate ain't great", as if anyone would really think Hate is great! Oh well, everyone is entitled to voice their opinion. We were there just for the Truffle Sandwich. We've never worked so hard for food. I take that back, Sandi and I stood in line years ago for 4 hours to try the original Ramen Burger. (We didn't think it would take that long).

The restaurant was cute but tiny with just 3-4 small tables. There was a line and most of the customers were the hungry demonstrators. It was finally our turn. I ordered 1 Cannelé with caramel to try while we waited for our sandwich. I divided it among the 4 of us. We liked it though we thought the caramel was a bit too sweet.

The sandwiches arrived. Sandi took the first bite. We all asked her how it was and she said; "It's good" but the tone of her voice was not convincing. We all had a bite. First of all, there weren't too many truffles so not each bite had a truffle. That was o.k. since I do know truffles are expensive so if every bite had a truffle, the sandwich would have cost $50!  Mertz thought the truffles tasted like bananas. I tried to figure out what it tasted like. The truffle flavor was very mild; too mild. The buttered bread that was supposedly soaked in French butter which we all love did not taste very buttery. The bread was not black but almost looked like rye that was toasted and was on the dry side. The sandwich did not have much flavor at all. In fact, I commented that maybe we should have brought the truffle salt Mertz gave me. The truffle fondue at Obica last week was far better than this so called freshly shaved truffles.

With all the hype, we were all so disappointed. We all agreed that the salad and the potato chips were very good. I think we all would have been happier with a regular grilled cheese sandwich.

Madame Monsieur has many items on their menu so it is not fair to judge them on this one special item. They have Croque Monsieurs, salads and sandwiches. They are located at 512 W. 6th St. in Los Angeles.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tuna and Cauliflower

My friend Amy gave me some tuna which her son caught when he went on his annual fishing expedition. I marinated the fish for 2 hours in 2 tablespoons Dijon honey mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. I got out my fish plates and started cooking. I cooked them on a grill pan with a little olive oil. I decided to serve a salad for healthier measures.

I tried to stay away from carbohydrates, something I rarely do, so I baked a Cauliflower recipe I got from Cindy's mom, Barbara. The recipe called for frozen cauliflower but I used the fresh one instead. I first microwaved the cut pieces and was careful not to overcook it. I then beat the cream cheese, butter, half and half till creamy and poured it over the cauliflower. It called for bread crumbs on top. I used Corn Flakes bread crumbs. I refrigerated it till it was ready to go in the 350 degree oven. I covered it and let it bake for about 30 minutes and I increased the heat and took off the cover to brown the top. The result was a success. The vegetable was nice and creamy and nobody felt guilty about the cream and butter since we were eating healthy vegetables. The fish was perfect, nice and flaky inside and packed with flavor.

It's nice to eat fish once in awhile, especially when it is not store bought. I thank Amy and her son Bryce. Here's to catching more fish.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Afternoon Tea at Pacific Dining Car

We mainly chose this venue for nostalgia and ambiance even if we've never been to this one in Santa Monica. Most of us have been to the Pacific Dining Car in Los Angeles. It's old world Hollywood restaurant famous for their steaks. We were not after steaks this time. We went to celebrate Sujata's birthday with our traditional "pass the balloon" to the next celebrant. We went for the Afternoon Tea.

We were all impressed as we walked in the restaurant at 3:30 p.m. It was quite empty which could be a good sign or bad. We were offered our choice of Champagne or Sherry. A menu was passed along with different kinds of tea. Everything was served on very nice china as should be. After 15 minutes or so, the plates arrived. Mini sandwiches of salmon, cucumber, cheese and ham arrived.  I lucked out because I got a few more salmon sandwiches the others did not want. They were my favorite; it's just some of us don't eat salmon.

Time went by and we were all hungry waiting for more. I finally flagged one of the servers to ask if something else was coming. He announced that the scones were on it's way. The scones (plural) were for all of us....we got one each served with Devonshire cream and raspberry jam. After a long wait, a plate of desserts came. The only thing I liked was the chocolate covered strawberry. We all figured that this was the finale. Service was very slow. We were there for 2 hours!  The conversation went on to see which restaurant was nearby that we could have some food. We decided to go to OBICÀ in Santa Monica.

Mertz, our designated driver happily drove us there. Majority did not really want to order a full dinner. They were all happy with appetizers. I was very tempted to have the dineLA menu which I've been craving since I've seen their menu online. My guardian angel first nudged me to let me know that this would be too much food. I still kept reading the menu when she finally poked me to say "Don't Do it.", so I obediently put that menu aside and agreed to split a pizza with Sandi. The pizza was delicious, just plain good old sauce,wonderful crust and the best Mozzarella di Bufala Campania DOP (Denominazione di origine proteta/protected designation of origin), which is from Campania in Southern Italy.

I was so engrossed with my pizza that I almost passed on the other appetizer that was ordered. The Patate al Tartufo. Potatoes, black truffle Parmigiano fondue. I had one potato dipped in the fondue. That was amazing. I could have eaten all of it! I did restrain myself and just had one.

It was nice to see Alessandra, Director of Marketing and Events whom I previously met at wine event last year. She got me in touch with Paolo, the distributor of the wonderful Franciacorta wines.

The birthday celebration at least ended on a happier note. I would not recommend the afternoon tea at the Pacific Dining Car. I would recommend going to OBICÀ and take advantage of their dineLA menu.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Four of us were very happy campers dining at Providence a few nights ago. This is really the "ultimate" dining experience. I have been there many times and it never ceases to amaze and surprise my palate. This time, I was with my brother Gary, Sandi and Piero who was new to Providence. The lady announced that our table was ready though we had a choice to sit in the main dining room or a table by the kitchen.  I was surprised by the offer since I never knew of this secluded room. It was a table away from everyone, a small private room on it's own with a full view of the kitchen. We all looked at each other and concurred we indeed wanted that table providing we don't get asked to do the dishes!

We loved this little room. I wondered why they asked us; was it because we looked like the type who would enjoy it or did we look like the type that shouldn't be seen therefore hide us from the public, ha.....that gave us something to think and laugh about.

We all settled for the 7 course Chef's Tasting Menu. The three of us old timers knew that even if the portions were small, there were a lot of extras. We also knew to limit consumption of their delicious rolls and mini brioche served with butter and sea salt. All that knowledge just went down the drain as it was hard not to have more than one of the warm and soft brioche. We were served 6 amuse-bouches before our first course. The first one was a Passion Fruit Bubble followed by Lobster Wonton with Daikon radish. The third was a Buckwheat Bellini with scallop Dijon. I only wish this blog could record our moaning and groaning and all the other sounds that came from us as we sampled these appetizers.

A Puff Pastry with Mornay cheese sauce and black truffles came next. The fifth amuse-bouche was Black Mussels chopped with lemon zest on seaweed focaccia. This was served with the mussel juice in a foam on a little shot glass. Both Sandi and Piero cringe with the mention of the word mussels but they enjoyed it. I was very proud of my little ones! (they've grown up)

I was happy to see the Cigar Wagyu which is one of my favorites. The presentation alone amuses me all the time. These Wagyu Cigars are served on a real tin cigar box. They really do look like cigars. They were nice and crisp outside and tender and juicy inside.

Our first course of Fluke Sashimi arrived. It had pomegranate, ruby red grapefruit, ume powder and fingerling limes. I didn't hear any complaints from Piero or Sandi, in fact they were back to their "uhmm" and "ahhhs". Before our second course, they brought out another surprise; Smoked Sesame Shrimp Toast on sticks which we all loved. I forgot to mention that aside from the tasting menu, they had appetizers like oysters, caviar etc. Gary and I saw the Uni which we love so we talked the 2 into trying it hoping they wouldn't like it so we could eat their portions. It was served on an egg shell that sat on a ceramic duck's webbed foot. Egg yolk was the base with herbs, champagne butter, diced tomato and croutons. After the first bite, we all had an out of body experience. We were all transported to heaven.

The second course on the menu was Abalone which was served with eggplant, turnip and kombu. By this time, we were all very full and didn't know how we could go on but we struggled and went on to the third course; Nancy's Day Boat Sea Scallops with buckwheat, parsnip and pepitas. The scallop was slightly sweet and very tender. Our fourth course was the Black Gill Rockfish with smoked butterball potato, stinging nettle and watercress. I especially loved the skin; the fish was never fishy as should be and had a delicate flavor.

For the main course, we had a choice of Swordfish, Duck or A5-11.Wagyu. The highest quality is A5-12 which is only in Japan. I have had their Wagyu before and I wanted it again. Three of us ordered it and Gary had the Duck. The Wagyu was an extra $25 which we did not mind since this steak was so tender you didn't need a knife to cut it. This was served with a squash terrine. All 4 of us did not like the squash. Oh well, everything can't be perfect.

The sixth course was Apple-Cucumber which cleansed our palate. Right after that was the main dessert; Kawa-Ishi. This was made with kinako (powder from grilled and crushed soybean), and black sesame cake. It's beyond my comprehension how all these ingredients put together can taste so unbelievably deeeelicious.

The dessert was not the end of the meal. They brought out some petits fours. I was too tired to even take a picture of the lovely assortments of truffle, jellied candy and peanut butter macaron. I almost forgot to mention that our server, Martin was excellent. He asked us if everything was satisfactory. The answer was a unanimous yes except for the squash terrine that came with the Wagyu beef. He was apologetic. He brought out the bill and told us he deducted the 3 Wagyu beefs. We were all surprised as this was totally unexpected. I can understand deducting a portion but not the whole thing! BUT.....this is the thing that sets Providence apart from other restaurants. I have been to some that would not care or would just give you a free dessert. What Martin did was above and beyond and made our experience even more memorable.

Before we left, we were handed a little bag with a treat for breakfast the following day. The experience reminds me of the song that starts out: " Oh...what a night...." It truly was some night! Providence is located at 5955 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles.