Sunday, July 30, 2017

Plan Check

Sandi and I ended up at Plan Check after seeing a French movie called Midwife at the Laemmle Royal. We have been there before but it's been a long time so it was time to check it out once more.

We could have sat outside but we both wanted to sit inside and the bar was wide open so we took our seats. It was great because we got to watch the cooks in action. We noticed there was a man at the end of the bar overseeing everything; he was definitely calling the shots. I was reminded of a scene in the movie Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston where the galley slaves were rowing to the beat of the drums. The cooks worked to the beat of this mans commands and he made sure everything was perfect before the food went out. This man was Chef John Keenan. They all worked beautifully and somehow you could tell they all respected each other.

We ordered the Chorizo and Eggs and the Chefs Favorite Burger. We asked our server if they could cut the burger for us and he politely declined. Chef Keenan brought us our food and when we told him we were sharing both, he asked if he could cut the burger for us. Sandi and I were so happy like little kids and told him how our server couldn't do it. We could tell he was most happy to please us. He just warned us that the egg would ooze all over and we told him it wouldn't bother us at all.  The Chorizo and eggs were delicious. The potatoes were not soft, in fact it was a bit undercooked which Sandi loved. I didn't mind it, the chorizo was very good. The burger had cheese two ways, bacon two ways and ketchup leather which they are famous for. It looks like dried roll-up fruit but it is really dehydrated ketchup so as not to get the bun soggy. We of course had to order some fries which went well with the burger. We were so full that we didn't finish the chorizo and the fries.

The waffles with fried chicken looked good but since we had fried chicken last night, we were not in the mood for more chicken.  The food is still very good at Plan Check and if Chef Keenan continues to conduct his cooks like a true maestro, I am certain Plan Check will continue to do well. They have several locations but the one  we went to is the original Plan Check on 1800 Sawtelle Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Truffle Oils Taste Test

Lately truffle oils have gotten a bad rap. I've read articles and interviews from Chefs that most of them do not contain truffles and they only have the truffle flavor. But I do not go by what they necessarily contain. I go by my taste buds and what pleases me. It's like buying the real Prada or getting a knock off. I buy a purse if I like the looks and feel of it, not because it's a Prada. If it happens to be a Prada and I can afford it at the time, then I buy it.

Yesterday, Mertz brought 3 Truffle Oils which we tasted on Burrata cheese. The brand name was Truffle Hunter. We had the Black Truffle Oil, White Truffle, and English Truffle. The black and white truffle was made with extra virgin olive oil with some truffle shavings and the English was made with rapeseed oil. Rapeseed for your information is a plant from the mustard family. We all found that the best truffle oil was the Black one. The white had a lot less flavor and the English had almost no flavor at all.

When I got home, I looked at my truffle oil which I like very much. The brand is Olivier from Napa Valley. White truffles from France are slowly steeped in extra virgin olive oil. There are no truffle particles yet it has a very distinct truffle taste which is just beautiful poured on some nice burrata cheese. What's interesting is I did not get this truffle oil at a specialty gourmet store, I got it at Home Goods for $12.99.

The next time you try truffle oil on burrata with a bit of truffle salt, savor the oil and if it speaks to you, make it your friend. However if it mute then forget about it as not all truffle oils are created equal.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


I read about the Chori-Man on Eater L.A. a few days ago so I asked some of my friends if they were interested in checking it out. Mertz and Sandi were in. After seeing the War for the Planet of the Apes movie, we were ready to go look for the Chori-Man in San Pedro. Sandi and I hopped on Mertz's big mobile and off we went.

Chori stands for chorizo. The man responsible for what many consider the best chorizo maker in all of Los Angeles is Humberto Raygoza who is a supplier of chorizo to many restaurants. We found the place in a residential area in San Pedro. Thank God Mertz was able to find a place to park the big mobile. Chori-Man is a very small place with a long and spacious kitchen. There is no place to eat inside. They plan to put a couple of tables outside later on. The menu was short and simple. A few burritos and tacos. They had 2 kinds of tacos, Tolucan green or red. We all ordered both. Since there was no place to sit, we drove to the nearby park. Unfortunately, the tables were not in the shade and it was a very hot day so as soon as Sandi spotted some shade by a tree, Mertz pulled in and we just ate in the car with the doors open for the nice breeze to come in.  The red taco was good, not greasy like most chorizos are but we all preferred the green chorizo. It had a lot more flavor. We unanimously said we would definitely have it again. Mertz bought a lb. of red chorizo to take home. I will have to do that next time but get the green chorizo instead.

Chori-Man is located at 2309 S. Alma St. in the city of San Pedro, California.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dominique's Kitchen

I haven't been to Dominique's in a while. I introduced Frank and Mary to Dominique's Restaurant last year. Ever since Frank had their Salmon and Sole, he was hooked. Last week while working out at the gym, Frank and I talked about my favorite subject; food. He mentioned that he hasn't been to Dominique's in a couple of months. Naturally, I said: " Let's go". Frank replied: "When?' Hence last night, Frank his wife Mary, Sandi and I were there even before the restaurant opened at 4:00 p.m. and yes, this was "seniors time" which we love because you get great service and a good parking spot.

We started with a bottle of Champagne. They gave me the liberty of ordering the appetizer. Since they've never had the fabulous Cheese Fondue, I ordered that for 2 people which is plenty for 4. I asked them to give us the truffle fries instead.
When the fries arrived, I dumped them all on the fondue and we all just scooped our own portions. I doubt you will find any fondue better than Dominique's.

I wanted Frank to try something other than fish. I suggested to him and Mary that they try the Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs cooked with Pinot Noir, tomato, garlic onions, and vegetables. It was served with a very creamy mashed potatoes. They did love it. Sandi and I had the 10oz. Prime Strip Loin in a brandy green peppercorn reduction. We both opted for the fries instead of the truffle infused potatoes though next time I think we should try that since we both love anything truffle flavored. We all had leftovers to take home.

We debated on whether we should order a dessert to share but before we could decide, Liza sent over our all time favorite; Baked Alaska! Believe it or not, we devoured Alaska in 2 minutes.

Dominique's Kitchen is located at 522 Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach, California.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A-1 Chinese BBQ

We recently had an early dinner at A-1 Chinese BBQ Restaurant. This restaurant has been in business for over 30 years and they have not expanded or moved so they must be doing something right. With the new management, everything is pleasant, from ordering your food and friendly service. Katie and Yvonne are there to make suggestions and answer your questions.

We ordered their special Peking Duck served with Gwa Pao (Taiwanese steamed buns), scallions and Hoisin sauce. The skin is nice and crisp and the meat is consistently tender.  The A-1 Crispy Noodles is always a hit; after you mix the sauce and noodles, the crispiness gets tamed and you are able to enjoy the flavors of the meats, seafood, and vegetables. They have a variety of fried rice: pork, chicken, vegetable or seafood. Love all their fried rice. The majority in our group voted to order a vegetable and so we did; Cucumbers and pickles.

One thing for sure: if you like shrimps, you have to order the Sautéed Shrimps. They are always succulent and cooked to perfection. This time, we didn't go overboard in ordering. This was plenty for 4 people and we still had leftovers.

A-1 Chinese BBQ is located 2014 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Lomita. They are open for lunch and dinner. It's best to go early since parking is limited. Don't you dare park where it says "Liquor Store" parking because they have a camera and someone will be out to reprimand you before you even lock your car door.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sidecar Doughnuts in Santa Monica

We went to see a movie at the Laemmle Royal and since we knew there was a Sidecar Doughnuts in Santa Monica not too far from the theater, we asked Google to guide us there as soon as we left the theater. We finally found the place after being misguided by google. We parked in the back and went in a building that had several business inside. There were arrows that led us to the store. It almost felt like we were being led to an illegal gambling room.

We entered the store and got a whiff of the various doughnuts. I bought a dozen of the Butter & Salt, Huckleberry, Old Fashioned Buttermilk, Chocolate Mint. I was disappointed that they didn't have the lemon, or blueberry cheesecake. Apparently, those 2 were specials. This time they had the strawberry cream which I thought I would try.

As soon as I got home, I tried the Strawberry Shortcake and it was just as delicious as the Blueberry Cheesecake I had in the past. I couldn't resist the dark chocolate mint so I took a bite. Not only did I not like it, I thought it was terrible. I love chocolate mint as a rule and I like mint ice cream with chocolate in it but somehow it didn't taste good as a doughnut. I gave Sandi one to take home and she didn't like it either. I found the buttermilk too sweet. The Huckleberry and the Butter & Salt are still my favorite. The monthly specials can be great but when you want to get more, you're out of luck.

It's nice to know that anytime you go to Sidecar, you can always count on warm Huckleberry, Butter & Salt Doughnuts and not get disappointed. They really are delicious. Keep in mind that these doughnuts are cake-like, unlike doughnuts you usually are accustomed to. Sidecar Doughnuts is located at 631 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, California.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back to Painter's Tape

We couldn't wait any longer to go back to Painter's Tape so Sandi and I drove to Gardena for brunch. We got there around 11 a.m. This time there were more people. This could also be from the article from EaterLA which I recently got in my email. In case you haven't read it, I've included the link since it explains how they got their name and also includes a bit of the background of Chef Atsushi.

We both agreed we just had to order the Scrambled Cheesy Egg on Toast again. It's the best scrambled eggs ever! We had the Potatoes Bravas the last time and enjoyed it but wanted to try the others so we ordered the Rosti Potatoes that had pho sour cream, Thai basil, mint, bean sprouts, and lime. from the vegetable selection. We tried the Cauliflower with raisins, sweet walnuts and quinoa cereal. They brought out the cauliflower first. We liked the various textures, cauliflower was crisp with the sweet soft raisins, crunchy sweet walnuts with a vinaigrette dressing. Then came our favorite scrambled eggs that were fluffy as ever and just delicious. I suddenly realized that our potatoes haven't arrived so we made an effort to slow down because the potatoes would really be good to eat along with the cauliflower and eggs. I'm not one of those people that eat one item at a time. I like to enjoy everything together. I have to make a mental note on that so the next time we order we hopefully can ask that items be brought out at the same time. The potatoes were wonderful. They were very crispy and the bean sprouts were so good (a bit sour) on top of the now creamy potatoes. It was excellent! I also enjoyed the Yuzu Lemonade which was very refreshing and went well with all the dishes.

We finished everything. Sandi mentioned the Banana Waffles and how we enjoyed it the last time. I asked her if she wanted to order since I was game. She thought about it for a second and I told her if we do have it she would have to eat half of it. Before I knew it, she was up at the counter ordering one. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. The chocolate was nice but the butter was just as delicious. it had some sweetness to it so you really would not need any syrup.

Painter's Tape is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm.  This might be a good place to go right after our gym. It will make getting up before 5 am and working out well worth it. Their address is 1725 W. Redondo Beach Blvd. in Gardena, California.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Italian Wine Tasting

Sommelier Paulo Cressi (Italian of course), from Vino Direct came over to our house to give us an educational course on wine tasting. We first sampled the Franciacorta Saten La Montina.  This wine was nice and crisp with hints of several fruits. I love the Rose Extra Brut which is just my preference. We didn't sample that since we already know everyone loves it. Paolo explained not just the wine and region but also the bubbles and what to look for. He also briefly explained the type of glass used for sparkling and for red wines.

He taught us how to look at wine and identify the wine's most prominent color. How to smell, savor the aroma and judge the intensity of the wine before you taste it.

Our first red wine was a Nero d'Avola Mothia 2015. This was most pleasing to everyone. It was smooth and very drinkable.  The second bottle was a Brunello Di Montalcino 2011 Belpoggio. I have had this wine before. You have to give it several swirls and let it breathe for 5 minutes. After that, the wine transforms into a very nice and smooth Brunello. It reminds me of a caterpillar that emerges into a beautiful butterfly. The third wine was a red, Recioto Della Valpolicella 2013. This was a sweet wine that goes well with chocolate. It was perfect with the chocolate covered strawberries we had. This also reminded me of a good port which would have gone well with any sharp cheese, especially a Parmigiano.

It was a lovely afternoon/evening. Though it was very hot outside, we had our AC on until something terrible happened. Our electricity went off partly. None of us ever experienced losing partial power before. It turned out that only 8 houses on our street were affected. The AC and electric fans went dead and a few lights turned dim. As the sun began to set, it got a bit cooler outside so we all moved to the backyard and enjoyed the view and the full moon.

Other than the heat wave in our house, we all still managed to have fun. Everyone thought Paolo was very informative. I thank Sommelier Paolo Cressi for coming over and hope to do it again soon with his wife, Elisabetta, whom we missed this time around.

Vino Direct imports Specialty Italian Wines. Check out their website to read about their shop, wine club, and private events.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Truxton's American Bistro

There's a Truxton's in Santa Monica and one in Westchester. One just opened in Torrance at the Hillside Village where Christine's used to be. Naturally, we had to see what this American Bistro was all about. The bar section seemed a lot bigger than it's predecessor.

For drinks, they had a selection of cocktails and mocktails. Sandi had the Blueberry Lemonade Spritzer and I had the Virgin Mule; pineapple, fresh lime and ginger beer. Both drinks were refreshing especially on a very hot summer afternoon.

The have small plates, salads, burgers, wraps, pasta, soups; they have something for everyone, even vegetarians. We ordered the Pork Bahn Mi; sliced vegetable Vietnamese style pork, pickled daikon, and carrots, cucumbers, red onions, fresh jalapeños, cilantro, mint with mayonnaise and hoisin sauce on ciabatta bread. The other entree we ordered was the Truxton Taco Salad; slow roasted chili-spiced beef tossed with shredded lettuce, black beans poblano corn salsa, cheddar and cotija cheese, tortilla chips, pico de gallo & spicy dressing. This was served on a crispy wheat tortilla.

There was so much food that we could not finish the salad which was delicious. The Bahn Mi had a nice flavor which we enjoyed. Our server Karen was great, constantly checking if everything was o.k. She was concerned since we didn't finish the salad. We assured her it was only because we were too full. However, we had room for dessert. She seemed delighted to hear that from these 2 gluttonous women.

There were several choices for dessert. We agreed to split the Salted Caramel Sundae; salted caramel gelato, caramel filled cinnamon sugar churros topped with fresh whipped cream. I've never had a stuffed churro before so this intrigued me. The churros were served hot which was fine but it made the gelato melt faster than we could eat it. Otherwise, this sundae was a perfect way to end a meal. As the owner Tim, walked by, I made the suggestion to serve the gelato separate next time. He was gracious enough to take note. I was very surprised that he did not charge us for the dessert which I thought was very nice. If you decide to have this dessert, make sure you ask them to serve the gelato in a separate cup so you can fully appreciate the dessert. A bite of the warm crispy filled churro and a spoonful of the salted caramel gelato is the way to go.

Truxton's American Bistro's address in Torrance is 24530 Hawthorne Blvd. at the Hillside Village. We can't wait to try the sliders which looked great. We have a lot of homework to do!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Painter's Tape

Sandi and I were in Manhattan Beach yesterday and we both haven't had breakfast.  We looked up places to eat but nothing stood out till I saw this place called Painter's Tape. Since I was driving, I had her look up the directions. She talked to her phone and said: " OK Google, directions for Duct Tape". Of course, nothing came up. It's Painter's Tape!

We got to the place in Gardena at around 10 a.m. The place was empty so we weren't sure if we would stay. This was also the day after the 4th of July where people were probably still in bed from celebrating. We walked in and there was a sign: Step 1: Fill out the form and Step 2: Take to register. The beauty of this was they had pictures of the menu.

After carefully studying the pictures, we decided on 3 items. Potatoes Bravas; paprika, garlic mayonnaise with a soft egg. Soft Scrambled Cheesy Eggs on toast and Yeast Waffle which came with bananas and ......chocolate! It surely didn't need any maple syrup. The waffle was crunchy and delicious. It was unlike any waffles I've had in the past. Sandi loved it and she doesn't even like waffles as a rule. The eggs were fluffy, cheesy and light. The potatoes were a bit spicy and it was mixed with what looked like potato chips for a change of texture. We both couldn't get over how good this place was. We can't wait to go back with our friends. They had so many other interesting things on the menu so we will just have to keep going back.

Service was great though this is do it yourself; meaning you fill out the form, get your utensils and put your plates away; sort of what you do when you're at your mom's house or at least what you are supposed to do. The staff is both helpful and informative. I asked our server who owned the place and she sent the owner/chef to meet us. Chef Atsushi, a humble young man who told us they've only been open since Mother's Day. He was nice enough to pose with us for a picture.

I wish Chef Atsushi the best and plan to visit his restaurant in the very near future. Painter's Tape is located at 1725 W. Redondo Beach Blvd. in Gardena, California.