Monday, December 29, 2008

Olive Ball Appetizers


I feel bad that I haven't posted a new recipe in a while, so here's an old favorite. I think I'll be making this for a New Year's Eve party this week. The dough comes out flaky and warm, and the combination of sharp cheddar and salty olives makes them addictive.

Olive Ball Appetizers
(Man, I wish there was a better name for recipe called "balls," but there isn't.)

Ingredients:
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup margarine (or butter)
¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Bisquick
1 jar (5 oz.) jar stuffed green olives

Directions:
Mix together the cheese, margarine, and Worcestershire sauce, then add the Bisquick. With your hands, knead into a dough. Drain and dry the olives on paper towels. Once (mostly) dry, wrap each olive in dough. Place onto a greased baking sheet and bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Enterprise Fish Co.

225 State St. Santa Barbara, CA
Phone: (805) 962-3313

After a day of cleaning house, my hubby made an amazing suggestion to head up to SB for a spontaneous dinner. On the drive north, while our stomachs growled, we listed off all the places we could eat. We settled on the Enterprise Fish Company, a restaurant we'd enjoyed once before, and enjoyed even more yesterday.

Enterprise has a chain restaurant decor to it, but it's crammed with SB locals. Hands down, the best part is the food. Enterprise serves mostly seafood, any style you like it, and they rely on buttery, rich sauces and sides.

As an appetizer, I highly recommend the Cajun Popcorn Shrimp. They're breaded in a light, spicy flour and fried so perfectly crispy that we never leave any on the plate. Served with a creamy mustard or tomotillo dipping sauce - both very different and flavorful.

The lobster bisque soup is a little fishy - not my favorite. But Enterprise serves it with a pastry crust that's so buttery and decadent, it's more like Yorkshire Pudding than plain ol' puff pastry.

My husband enjoyed his steak last trip, served with cheesy potatoes Romano (twice baked potatoes loaded with Romano cheese). This time around he tried the chicken club sandwich - also fantastic, he says, but couldn't point out exactly why. Just a solid, yummy sandwich.

This trip I was feeling famished and splurged to try the Scallop Risotto. I'm so glad I did. After the shrimp appetizer, a dinner salad, and bread, the plate was so rich I was only able to eat a few bites. But they were amazing. The scallops were the largest I've ever seen, pan fried to perfection and sweetly flavored. They were served over a super-creamy and rich parmesan risotto and steamed spinach. It was one of those dinners you want to close your eyes to really taste the full effect of every bite.

So if you're in the Santa Barbara area, walking down State Street, stop by the Enterprise Fish Company for some decadent seafood. Just watch your wallet - plates range from $10 to $25 (more, if you're a lobster fan) but you certainly won't leave hungry or unimpressed!

Monday, December 22, 2008

gingergrass


I started going to gingergrass when I started working at my current job. It's a fairly trendy version of Vietnamese food, but they have deliciously creative dishes, and all of the dishes carry over the amazing flavors and combinations that you find in traditional Vietnamese food.

Details:
gingergrass
2396 Glendale Boulevard
Silver Lake, CA 90039
tel:
(323) 644-1600
http://www.gingergrass.com

There are many great dishes to have here, but I tend to stick to a few that are my favorites. But before I get into the dishes, here's something you should know about me: I do NOT like tofu. I am simply not a tofu person. My mom was a vegetarian for a while when I was young, and it was a nightmare for me, because she would put tofu in everything. However? gingergrass blew my opinion about tofu out of the water.

One of my all time favorite dishes at gingergrass is their tofu lunch plate. Instead of the chewy, flavorless substance I was accustomed to, I was delighted with soft, textured bites. Maybe it was the crunchy shell that is created as they cook it, or their general method of making it, but it's fabulous.

In fact, you really can't go wrong with one of their three lunch plates. In addition to the tofu, they have a pork chop lunch plate and a wok tossed chicken lunch plate. All are delicious. All are served with their amazing Vietnamese "cole slaw" and broken rice, a combination of which could be its own mini meal.

As for dinner, my co-workers and I have tried a bunch of their entrees. The bo sate, shaking beef, and the wok tossed noodles are all favorites. I've never tried their noodle bowls, but they seem to be well liked as well.

Also not to be missed are their drink specials - the basil lime elixir is my absolute favorite, and the "gingergrass gingerale" is very tasty as well. And if you're in the mood for a caffeine fix, the Vietnamese coffee is crazy good. Brewed fresh for you into a cup of condensed milk, if you pour it over ice you are sure to avoid that after lunch food coma. They constantly have unique special appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The lychee panna cotta is absolutely to die for, and I was gutted to not find it on the specials any longer when I went last.

Prices are a bit on the expensive side, but are still reasonable depending on what you order.

Good for:

- lunches, work or otherwise
- fairly healthy fare
- beverages
- tofu

Tips:

- Three of the guys I've gone with have not felt full after eating at gingergrass. If you order correctly, you get more than enough food, but beware of entrees like the lemongrass chicken, because it's chicken on the bone, and a bit more paltry than other dishes.

Adriana's overall rating: 8/10

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pickwick's Pub

Pickwick's Pub
21010 Ventura Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
(818) 340-9673

I never went to the old Pickwick's but my fiancee and I are big fans of how it is now. We met up with a few friends for dinner and drinks one night and have been fans ever since.

We love the small, cozy feel of the place and we have loved every dish we tried. They serve British pub food - fish and chips, shepherd's pie, bangers, English breakfast complete with English bacon and beans. Everything is delicious. They serve other food such as burgers and tacos but we stick with the British food.

Service can be a bit slow at times and it can be hard to find a table on certain nights, but for a cozy, fun, yummy place where we always feel welcome, Pickwick's is our choice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cowgirl Cafe 2

Cowgirl Cafe II
2859 Hamner Ave, Norco, CA 92860
(951) 371-5465

Ok this place is AWESOME! It's on my favorites list and i've only been there once. Maybe it deserves to wait longer to get on that list, but i'm eager to put this on there.

This place is located in the little western town of Norco (short for North Corona) in the Riverside area. Norco has large sidewalks built for horses, and you can regularly see cowboys riding past. In fact we saw a large gang of men in sombreros riding by, something like the 3 amigos only authentic and cool, but with 20 or more people. Anyway, where do you see that these days? Norco is a great little town, feels like an old west town in today's modern age. It's the neatest little place on the 15 freeway.

Anyway there is an original Cowgirl Cafe in Mira Loma that I will try if i'm ever out there, but we have a friend living near Norco so we'll probably only ever visit this one.

This place is amazing. Only open for breakfast and lunch, they have dishes called the "Kitchen Sink" which includes all breakfast items except, the kitchen sink, so it's an all inclusive buffet like dish that manly men have trouble finishing. It offers great value food, large portions and hometown taste. They serve all drinks out of various mason jars - SO COOL, and the ambiance is very, well, country like.

You will wait for a table, especially on Sunday mornings, but it's totally worth the wait. The staff are friendly, nice and accommodating.

I ordered the half platter of biscuits and gravy, with a side of home fries. I am not a huge fan of bell peppers but the way they make those home fries, oh so yum! And those biscuits and gravy - GIANT portion and oh oh oh oh OH so yummy. Maybe I was hungry, maybe, but that place had such a great hometown southern feel to it. Friends got a variety of other things, BLTs, Sausage and eggs, french toast, and all said it was delish. The place is a local favorite so you know it's great.

I got to eat a few bites of their breakfast burrito as well - YUM YUM YUM! That's all I have to say.

Go eat there! This place is so divey and local that I couldn't find a photo of it online - crazy huh? But alas whenever we go back i'll take a photo and post one here :)

Good eats, no, GREAT eats! :) It's places like this that this blog is made for! Mmmmmmm Thank you Norco!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Max's Chicken


Mmmmmm mmmmmmm delicious. We went with friends to a Filipino chicken place called Max's Chicken. It's a popular chain in the Philippines, and they have a location in Glendale California next to the Galleria, so we decided to try it out. The first time we went there, many many years ago, the service was terrible and the food pretty bad as well. So I was willing to give it another shot. I became a bit more nervous when I saw a pizza being delivered to the restaurant. I mean, where do you see pizza being delivered to a restaurant? But the place was packed on a Friday night and there were many groups of people there willing to wait for a table, so I was hopeful.

As we were seated, we walked by lots of packed tables with lots of yummy looking dishes. There's also a karaoke/sports bar within the restaurant so I may have to go there for my next birthday. We had excellent fast service from a nice friendly waiter, so obviously they had very much improved since the last time I went. Anyway here's what we ordered.

Max's whole fried chicken - OMG delicious! We had leftovers and on the car ride home it smelled like peanuts so I think their secret is they cook it in peanut oil - so beware if you are allergic? ask. But yes the food was amazing yum! Definitely better than Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles - and I may even say it quite possibly is better than KFC and El Pollo Loco, some of my favorite chicken places.

Lumipa Shanghai - that's the meat lumpia aka little taquitos that Filipinos are famous for and yes every white person I know loves them. Filipinos love them too - but the most popular white boy food. The ones at Max's were yum!

Lumpia Ubod - vegetable lumpia with peanut sauce all over it and filled with hearts of palm and other veggies in a cold crepe like wrapper. One of my favorite foods, but the one at Max's was "ok". Not bad, still alright, but not great.

Pancit Palabok - it's a noodle dish topped with an egg sauce, pork cracklings, green onion, shrimp and shrimp sauce, etc. It's a traditional Filipino favorite, and my personal favorite type of pancit. I actually really enjoyed it, but it does need a squeeze of lemon to make it tastier.

Garlic Rice - OMG! :) As a Filipina, rice is amazing and so yummy and I hardly ever cook garlic rice at home so when I do have it, I have to mmmmmmmmm. So I really enjoyed the garlic rice. May not be for everyone, but it's definitely one of my all time favorite foods. Max's made good garlic rice - very good :)

So that's my review of Max's chicken. Great service, great food, and prices about average. We're definitely going back there soon, and we'll try other things so the bloggers can get a nice view of all the different dishes. Mmmmm.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wine Country Trattoria

Wine Country Trattoria
Disney's California Adventure
(714) 781-3463 for advanced reservations

This restaurant is one of our favorite places to dine in the Disneyland parks. Not only does it allow drinking, it encourages it with a wine tasting bar off to one side! The waiters are as jovial as most Disneyland cast members. And the food at the Trattoria is (in my opinion) much better than grabbing a burger elsewhere, for not that much more in price.

My hubby ordered the meat lasagna and loved it. I've also had the alfredo chicken lasagna (pre-veggie-ism) and adored it too. And of course, with tiramisu on the menu, I had a light bowl of soup to save room for dessert. The poblano corn chowder was spicy, much like tortilla soup. I think this was also served around the park, but for the same price, I got a better atmosphere and yummy breadsticks to dunk in it! The tiramisu was perfect - creamy and rich. We cleaned the plate spotlessly.

Instead of paying $13 per glass of wine, we opted to upgrade a little and for $32 bought a whole bottle. It was a great, bad idea. It was a better deal, but I think we both agreed that we really didn't need that much to drink. (Then again, now I can say I rode the Tower of Terror and had the courage to raise my arms on the big fall!)

One thing to note: I'd suggest calling the Disney Dining line a day before your park visit to make reservations. Although we've never been turned away from the Trattoria as walk-ins, it might be difficult to book the usual 5-8 pm dinner hour.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Holdrens Steaks & Seafood

1714-A Newbury Road, TO
Phone: (805) 498-1314
512 State Street, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 965-3363
Website: www.holdrens.com

Yum. Last night at Holdren's, we celebrated our 2-year wedding anniversary and everything went perfectly. The stars aligned, the wine was fabulous, and the dinner was delactable. While we don't usually need an excuse to go out (we love dining at nice places on random Tuesdays for no good reason - see Fins), we wanted to try someplace new.

Holdren's is a small place tucked into an even smaller mall. But the service is attentive, the food is fantastic, and the atmosphere feels comfortable and relaxed - not too fancy. Ask for Chris L. if you go - he was conversational, accomodating, and knew his wines. Based on his suggestions, we both ordered something we adored right away.
Hob Nob Pinot Noir
Ferrari Carano Cabernet Sauvignon

Mondays try the all-you-can-eat ribs. It was a $1 more than ordering the half-rack on the menu, and my husband raved about how tender the meat was. A rack and a half later he exclaimed, "This is the way ribs should be."

I ordered a side of veggies and creamed spinach. (It's not easy being a veggie in a steakhouse). The waiter offered to make me a veggie platter, but the creamed spinach was decadent and just what I wanted. I appreciated the fact that the offered, since not many places do.

All around, Holdrens exceeded every expectation. We'll be back soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Limon Latin Grill

1555 Simi Towne Center Way
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Phone: (805) 955-9277
Website: http://www.limongrill.com/

We had a girls' lunch at Limon after a spa day and everyone loved it. I was so impressed that I took my hubby out to dinner about a week later... but really disliked it! It's too bad - even though the food's good, I doubt I'll drive out to Simi for this again.

Limon offers a full bar and tapas in addition to the extensive menu of seafood, meats, and pastas. The food is flavorful and beautifully served with a variety of creative sides such as quinoa or pineapple salsa. Diners fight over the patio seating to listen to thier acoustic guitarists. Fridays and Saturdays the restaurant clears out and becomes a dance club.

On my first experience, I was impressed. The lobster enchilada I ordered was surprisingly large and overstuffed with mounds of delectable fish. Even though it lacked sides, it was perfectly filling and rich. Other fun menu items shared around the table were the mojito chicken, paella, and lots and lots of chimichurri sauce. Dessert was a treat too. Usually, I'm the chocoholic but I let the other girls fight over the lava cake and churros while I dug into the bananas foster made with tart plantains.

At our second attempt, the service and food were both lacking. I asked for the miso halibut that I'd seen my friend order the previous week. (It took a lot of willpower to not take bites when she wasn't looking that day). Sadly, mine didn't look anything like hers. Even though the piece of fish was bigger, it was dry and missing the terriyaki glaze. It was also missing a side of pineapple salsa. I have a sneaking suspicion that the fish wasn't halibut too, but that might have been due to how badly they overcooked it.

Part of the bad experience was my fault and partly bad service. The waiter disappeared, and by the time my husband asked for the manager, he'd finished his meal. They offered to replace the dish with a corrected piece of fish, but by then we were done and I wanted to leave. We paid our $75 bill and left, not exactly feeling worth it.


I may have beat Addy to the punch on this review - feel free to add!

Giant Hostess Cupcake

Update 7/21: I jumped the gun on this one - don't do it! I had a terrible experience with this cake last night. The vanilla cream filling was horrid. I was up until midnight replacing the filling with a homemade whipped cream. I don't ever want to make this cake again, as cute as the idea was.

You know the one - the chocolate cupcake with the sqiggle of white frosting on top, and the creamy middle. I'm making a giant version for a coworker's birthday next week, and I couldn't wait until after the project to post the idea - it's just too good. Shhh... it's a surprise. Recipe courtesy of Baking Bites.

Giant Hostess Cupcake
2 batches of chocolate cake (4 layers, total)
1 batch vanilla cream filling
1 batch rich chocolate frosting (recipe below)

Take all four (cooled) chocolate cake layers and level the domed tops using a large, serrated knife. Using a large biscuit cutter or a paring knife, cut an approx. 5-inch circle from the center of each of two of the cake layers.
Stack one uncut layer on a cake plate or serving tray and place the two center-less layers on top of it. Fill the center of the cake with the vanilla cream filling. Reserve about 1-2 tbsp of filling to make the squiggle on top of the cake.
Place final uncut layer on top of the filling to seal it in.
Frost entire cake with a thin layer of rich chocolate frosting. Using a large offset spatula will give you the smoothest finish.Place reserved vanilla filling into a plastic bag and cut off the corner. Pipe filling onto top of the cake in a squiggly line to finish.
Cake can be refrigerated or kept at room temperature.

Vanilla Cream Filling
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk (lowfat is fine)
1/2 cup butter (or trans fat-free shortening)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 scraped vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour and milk and cook in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. This will only take a few minutes. Sir continuously to prevent the mixture from clumping and do not bring all the way to a boil. When thickened (consistency will be that of a thin pudding or custard), strain with a mesh strainer into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely to room temperature.
When the milk mixture is cool, cream the butter (or shortening) and sugar together in a medium bowl until light. Add in the milk/flour mixture and the scraped vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract) and beat at high speed with an electrick mixer for 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, or a large ziplock bag with the corner cut off.

Rich Chocolate Frosting
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk (lowfat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt together butter and chocolate in a medium-sized, microwave safe bowl. Work in 30 second intervals, stopping to stir frequently, and continuing until the mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly (about 3-5 minutes). Add in confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cupcakes with Pineapple Buttercream

I used regular, boxed yellow cake for the cupcakes - my main goal was to test out the frosting. This is going to be a new favorite, no question about it. I can't wait to make a whole cake smothered in the stuff!

Pineapple Buttercream Frosting
¼ cup butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
⅛ tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon extract
4 Tbsp. pineapple juice, or more to taste

Cream butter until fluffy and gradually work in 1 cup of sugar.
Add the salt, lemon extract, and juice, then work in remainder of sugar. Add more sugar if needed to make a spreadable frosting and the consistency you prefer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jerry's Famous Deli

Jerry's Famous Deli
12655 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, Ca 91604
818-980-4245

21857 Ventura Blvd
Woodland Hills, Ca 91364
818-340-0810

Yet another Los Angeles area landmark - Jerry's Famous Deli has been around for 30 years with multiple locations. It offers up typical deli fare - sandwiches hot and cold, soups, salads, breakfast anytime. Jerry's is good food, but not great. We went there for dinner the other night and I was kinda shocked at the prices. Maybe I'd never paid attention to them before, I'm not sure. I wanted something lunch-y and cheap so I narrowed it down to a grilled cheese or the corn dogs for just under $9. I went with the grilled cheese and while it was good, that's about $4 too much for any grilled cheese. For a shocking $3.50 extra, I could add bacon. $3.50 for bacon! A quick browse of their online menu also turns up a club sandwich for $15.50 or a ham and cheese omelette for $10.45 just to give other examples of prices. Get real, Jerry's.

As with most delis, Jerry's serves up a really great bowl of matzo ball soup, so I can definitely recommend that. While I've never had a bad experience at Jerry's Deli I don't think I've ever had an exceptionally great one, either. If your wallet can afford it, give it a shot.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Pantry

The Pantry is one of those Los Angeles institutions that has been around forever and a year, and with good reason! Open since 1924, it's a cash only diner open 24 hours a day (rumor has it that the door doesn't even have a lock). In the heart of downtown Los Angeles, it's a popular lunch spot for politicians from City Hall and Convention Center-goers, and at night becomes a mecca for the post-concert & club crowd and the many insomniacs that haunt LA.

Details:
The Pantry
877 S Figueroa Street (Figueroa and 9th)
Los Angeles, CA 90017
tel: (213) 972-9279


We recently went to The Pantry after my sister's high school graduation. We were a party of seven, but would have been seated right away had my parents gotten there at the same time we did - instead we waited at the counter with mugs of delicious coffee until they arrived and we were seated. Our waiter came quickly, only to be sent away because we weren't ready. It took him a while to come back, but when he did it was with our drinks as well as a giant plate heaped with sourdough bread. It was soft and chewy and seriously hit the spot while we waited to order.


We mostly ordered dinner-type items: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, clam chowder, the Pantry burger - with the exception of Sean who ordered an omlet. I think that breakfast and meat/steak are the ways to go at The Pantry - our food was good, but other tables had some amazing looking stuff!

Most meals come with coleslaw, potatoes, and veggies - ours came with only coleslaw, and I'm not sure if it was because they ran out of everything else, or what. Maybe it was because we all had sandwiches?

Nina got a piece of lemon cake to take with her, so I'm not sure how that worked out for her. We ordered custard, which I will not do again. It was too close to flan for my taste, and I'd been expecting something closer to pudding.

The prices are reasonable for a diner - we had some of the cheaper plates which were all under $10, but if you want to go big, they do have a giant steak plate for $22.50.

This is NOT the place to go for "gourmet" food, or "healthy" food. The Pantry is a great greasy spoon diner to go to when you need something heavy in your stomach after a night on the town, or to help cure a hangover. It's the place to go for a slice of LA history and interesting characters. If I had had more time and guts, I would have been photographing much more than our table and the menus on the wall!

Good for:

- good coffee and breakfast items
- LA history
- out on the town wrap up
- 24 hour service

Next time I go, I will order breakfast, the mac & cheese, or a grilled cheese sandwich. And try the lemon cake or cheesecake for dessert!

Tips:

- Lines can be long or short at any given time of the day - no reservations are taken and you will only be seated when your whole party is there.
- They only take CASH, so don't forget to stop at the ATM on your way over.
- Park across the street in the lot on 9th, it's only $2 with validation and everywhere else will be much more, or illegal.

Addy's rating: 8/10

Friday, June 20, 2008

Clifton's Cafeteria

648 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 627-1673
Clifton's

Clifton's is Los Angeles restaurant dating back to 1931, and it really is a cafeteria. You grab a tray, walk through as you pick out your dishes and pay at the end. They have tons of choose from - ranging from pork chops and vegetable sides to desserts, soups and salads. Prices are pretty affordable, too, but I found the food to be a bit lacking. It wasn't bad or gross but I think I just expected more.

The decor is definitely something, though - it looks like a moose lodge inside. The history of Clifton's is pretty cool and it might be something to try out of curiosity, but nothing you need to rush to.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Carney's

12601 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA
(818) 761-8300

8351 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA
(323) 654-8300
Website

Don't let their horribly designed website influence your opinion on their food. Carney's is another Los Angeles landmark we've been meaning to try for a long time. When you're driving down Ventura Blvd.or the Sunset Strip, you can't help but notice the train cars next to the other restaurants. We went to the Studio City location last weekend and found it quite yummy! It's pretty standard American food, with their specialties being hot dogs, hamburgers and chili. I had the Chili dog which was really good - the dog has a snap to it, the chili is awesome and it came topped with delicious tomatoes (pre-salmonella scare). I'm not usually a tomato fan and I've never had a tomato that good. The fries were really good, too. The food is reasonably priced and eating in or next to a train car is a fun experience. Along with Philippe's, I'd have to say Carney's is another Los Angeles landmark you should experience at least once.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tiramisu Cupcakes

I made these for a friend’s birthday, not knowing if she even liked tiramisu, and they came out pretty well! I'd add a little more flavor next time (see notes). They take a bit of time, having to cut each cupcake in 4 layers and assemble, but the results were beautiful and yummy. Thanks to addy for being my tester (I made her approve of cupcake #1 before I went through the effort of assembling all the rest!)

Tiramisu Cupcakes
Recipe courtesty of "Cupcakes" by Pamela Clark.

Vanilla Buttercake:
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
3 tablespoons milk

Mascarpone Cream:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 ½ tablespoons marsala wine
¼ cup heavy cream, whipped

Coffee Mixture:
1 ½ tablespoons instant coffee mixture
½ cup boiling water
3 tablespoons marsala wine

Decorations:
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely grated

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 6-hole oversize (Texas) or 12-hole standard muffin pan with paper baking cups.
Beat butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk in small bowl on low speed until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium, beat until mixture is changed to a paler color. Divide mixture among baking cups; smooth surface.
Bake large cakes about 25 minutes, small cakes about 20 minutes. Turn cakes onto wire rack to cool.
To make the mascarpone cream: Combine mascarpone, sifted powdered sugar, and marsala in a small bowl. Whip cream and fold into mixture.
To make the coffee mixture: Combine coffee, water and marsala in a small bowl; cool.
Remove baking cups from cupcakes. Cut each cake horizontally into four. Brush both sides of cake slices with coffee mixture. Join cake slices with mascarpone cream.
Spread tops of cakes with mascarpone cream; sprinkle with grated chocolate. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Notes:
These cupcakes come out dense. The reason is to absorb all of the coffee mix and not get too soggy. Give them overnight and they loosen up perfectly.
I substituted ½ cup of premade coffee for the instant coffee mixture and water. I bet it’d be even better with espresso. Next time, I might add some Kahlua or rum too.
The recipe calls for letting the cakes refrigerate for 3 hours, but I’d recommend overnight to let the flavors really blend.

Homemade Oreos

Even though it’s already been posted on a few sites, fabulous recipes are meant to be shared! I found this on Smitten Kitchen first, then Nosh With Me. Both came with such soaring reviews that I couldn’t pass up the idea for Father’s Day, and my dad’s a big Oreo fan. Thanks to both sites for sharing what is now a new favorite!

Homemade Oreos

Cookie Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

Filling Ingredients:

¼ cup (½ stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees.

To make the cookies: In a food processor or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing or on low speed, add the butter and then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the filling: Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl and, at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies: In a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

Enjoy as any Oreo should be - dunked in a large glass of milk!
Makes 25-30 sandwich cookies (I got 38 out of my batch).

Notes:

Smitten Kitchen suggests limiting the sugar in the cookies to 1 cup, instead of 1 ½. It depends on how sweet you ant them. I went the middle route and did about 1 ¼ to play it safe.

The recipe calls for “unsweetened Dutch process cocoa.” I found Ghirardelli unsweetened baking cocoa on sale and figured it’d work just fine. It did!

Make sure your baking sheets are cool in between sets of cookies. Cookies on the top rack came out crinklier than the ones on bottom, so it’s worthwhile to switch halfway through if you want them uniform.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Moz Buddha Bar

30105 Agoura Road
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Phone: (818) 735-0091
Website: http://mozbar.com/

Dinner: Open 5-10:30 pm Sun.-Thurs.; -12 am Fri.-Sat.
Bar: Open until 2 am Fri. & Sat.

Happy Hour 5-7 pm, with tray-passed appetizers.
Special events and menus on holidays.

After arranging countless business dinners here, but never having participated in any, I was curious about Moz. Last year, we finally had an excuse – a group birthday event - and loved the food. While I wouldn’t recommend a large party here (2-4 is best), this place is one of our favorites when we feel like splurging. Unlike Fins, we walk away from this restaurant feeling like our money was worth every bite, sip of wine, and candlelight flicker.

The restaurant:

We love the atmosphere here. Low-hanging lights, fresh orchids, and a dark décor make you feel like, no matter where you are, you can drown out the rest of the crowd and have a private dinner. The staff is always attentive, conversational, and helpful when you’re ordering.

Favorites:

- Rock Lobster Chowder: One of the cheaper menu items, but worth its weight in, well… bisque. Absolutely one of my favorite foods to order out!
- Shrimp & Chicken Stir Fry: The hubby’s hard-to-order-anything-else pick.
- Stuffed Chicken with Crab & Asparagus: My hubby was adventurous and ordered something new – and loved it! It was kind of odd that the mashed potatoes came on a separate plate, though.

Dessert: Everything has been a favorite so far. No, really.

- Chocolate Fondue: A huge plate of fresh fruit and cookies with rich, chocolate fondue. Easily shared between 4 or more people.
- Strawberry Shortcake: Oh. My. Gosh. Fresh pound cake served with scoops of real strawberry ice cream, strawberry chunks, strawberry sauce, and whipped cream. And the coup de grace – white chocolate chips. Served in a oversized martini glass.
- Bananas Foster: I haven’t tried this one yet, but similar to the strawberry shortcake. Substitute caramelized bananas, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce for the above.

Drinks:

- Fantastic wine selection. The house wines are some of our favorites.
- Watch out for the Flaming Lunchboxes. Yes, you can light your hand on fire – I’ve seen it done.
- Specialty martinis of the season, such as Kiwi Honeydew, are always fun.

And someday soon, if I can get myself away from the soup, I just might try the dynamite sea scallops. Oh, and the chocolate martini from the dessert menu. I always forget about it until it’s too late.

Toast


We went to Toast over the weekend to celebrate Good Eats Here blogger Chris' birthday. Happy Birthday Chris!! We went for the drinks, the company and the atmosphere, and while those were fantastic, I felt that the Toast experience left something to be desired. It was my first time there, and let's just say that Chris and Kit Kat will have a hard time convincing some of us to go again next year.

Details:
Toast
20969 Ventura Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
tel: 818.992.5500

Ambiance: They have a comfy, well decorated bar area. It doesn't have too many tables, for the amount of space it takes up, but all for all it's a comfortable space. TVs for the sports inclined, dimmed lights for the romantics. We saw at least one first date, and I wouldn't be surprised if there'd been more.

Food: I was a little torn on the food. Our group ordered a few things - mac & cheese with lobster and truffle, burger and fries, cake.

The mac & cheese was good - split by roomies who were thrown off at the lobster, but they both enjoyed it, and I liked the bite I snagged, even though I only got noodles and cheese. I would definitely recommend it, if you're looking for a quick bite to share.

The burger & fries were also good - bravo on the garlic fries, they were really really good. And it seemed our friend throughly enjoyed his burger.

The cakes? Well, they were good. We ordered two - a lemon layer cake with coconut, and a chocolate mousse cake. The lemon cake came out with little problem, but they got the wrong chocolate cake. They brought us a decadent chocolate cake, which LOOKED amazing. And then they took it away to bring us the other, only to return five minutes later saying the other mousse cake had run out. We decided to just stick to the one piece, and Dani's and my enjoyment of it was only vaguely dimmed by the amount of time it had taken to arrive.

Service: The service in the bar is the main reason I wouldn't choose to return. When we arrived, there were two other parties being served. We sat in our reseved area and got our first round of drinks without issue. By the time the whole party was there (10 - 15 people, with people coming and going), there were 4-5 other parties in the bar area, and the service became sluggish at best.

Example: I ordered a Pepsi because I was driving. I finished my Pepsi. The bartender came by and asked if we needed anything. I told her I'd love a refill. 20 minutes went by without a refill. She came to the table again to take a food order, and left again. Another 10 minutes went by. She came back with someone else's drink. I asked for a refill again. Another 15 minutes when by. I said, screw this, and walked up to her at the bar with my glass, where she looked at me blankly until I asked AGAIN for a refill. She filled my glass with Diet.

I guess this is a pet peeve of mine, but still. If you're bartending at a restaurant on a Saturday night, you should have at least the basic skills to keep the DD's glass full. Also - we had numerous times through the evening when someone would be more than ready for another round and it was left un-noticed.
Also? Our cake took FORTY minutes to arrive at our table. What's that about? How long does it take you to cut a slice of cake?

Another quick thing before I stop whining - when we sat down, the bartender girl asked us how we would do the checks. We said, not sure, we'll figure it out. As more people came around, another woman (a manager?) came by and asked us again - how would we like to do the bill? We said, oh, maybe split it into thirds? And she said, oh, well we'll just give you one big bill and different copies. What? No. If you don't want to split our bill, don't ask how we want to do the check!

Good for:
- Slightly pricey first date

Addy's Rating
4/10 (<-- 4 points for the mac & cheese and the fries)

Fins


Fins Seafood Grill, Westlake
982 S. Westlake Blvd.
Westlake Village, CA 91361
Phone: 805-494-6494

Fins Creekside, Calabasas
23504 Calabasas Rd.
Calabasas, CA 91302
Phone: 818-223-3467

Website: http://www.finsinc.com/

The hubby and I were in a romantic mood last night and wanted to try something new. We’re big fans of Moz Buddha Bar, a sister restaurant of Fin’s, so we thought we’d try it out. We spent a little too much money, but hey – you only live once, right?

Our entrees were neither great nor bad - just okay. The problem is that the prices are so high you want to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Mostly we felt as though we’d paid for the ambiance, and ate some food while we were there.

I’d go back. But next time, I’d be happy with a glass of wine, munching on some bread and soaking in the atmosphere.

The Good:

Wine: They have many flavorful selections. I don’t think we’ve had one yet that we’re disappointed with. Maybe it’s the wine list, or maybe it’s just our luck.

Appetizer bread: It could have been that we were starving, but the bread was so good that we ordered more and polished off both plates, even though we were excited about our entrees. Served with super-creamy butter and olive tapenade.

Ambiance and design: Romantic, white linens, and candlelight. We took advantage of the late-night Sunday evening and enjoyed a majority of the restaurant to ourselves.

The Bad:

Raspberry chocolate chip cheesecake: Disappointingly dry. The crust was way too thick and heavy.

Music: Salsa, and loud. It didn’t fit into the romantic ambiance at all. But it didn’t really make you want to get up and dance, either.

Phones: For some reason, the phone at the front desk was outrageously loud and reverberated throughout the restaurant. It really put another damper on the ambiance.

The Indifferent:

Filet Mignon: Dry rubbed, with mashed potatoes, sautéed garlic spinach, and crispy onions. Nothing new or exciting to this combination, that's all.

Ravioli Florentine: The best part was the goat cheese sprinkled on top, which lent it a rich flavor. Otherwise, it would have tasted like any other ravioli. It also mentioned a parmesan crust on the menu, but I never saw anything resembling it.

Tiramisu: Not the most flavorful I’ve had, and it should be, given that it’s soaked in rum, Kahlua, and espresso! They layered it with chocolate chips which gave what should have been a creamy dessert an out-of-place crunch.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rick's Burgers

**Disclaimer about Rick's: Rick's is in a special little corner of Los Angeles I call "No Man's Land," in the nothingness between Glendale/Atwater Village and Silverlake/Dodger Stadium area. It is quite sketchy. But, it's close to my office, and they have one of the greatest burgers known to Los Angeles.**

Details:
Rick's Burgers
2400 Fletcher Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90039
tel: (323) 660-5988

Rick's is a casual, slightly seedy drive thru and diner that serves the greatest burger and onion rings. They rival In & Out, and pull ahead in the "greasy spoon burger" category. They have lots of other types of food, as well - breakfast, Mexican dishes, etc. But the burgers are hands down the way to go.

I went there for lunch today and got a cheeseburger (around $4) and a soda (around $1.50). I also got the fried zucchini today, which I won't do again. The fries are MUCH better, and the zucchini wasn't anything to write home about.

The prices are good - but there aren't so many "combos," so watch what you order.

Also, do the drive thru and eat down the road by the Silverlake reservoir. It's has much more ambiance!

Good for:
Hangover food
Breakfast
Amazingly good burgers

Addy's rating: 6.5/10

Monday, June 2, 2008

Quincy's


Quincy's
The best BBQ under one Woof

Plaza de Oro
17201 Ventura Blvd
Encino, CA 91316
Tel: (818) QUINCY-2 (784-6292)
Fax: (818) 986-4097

Ok the tag line is cheesy but it comes from a sweet story. They named the restaurant after a beloved family dog and the place is dedicated to their pet but also is a dog friendly place. There's a dog hall of fame and it's very friendly and family run. We regularly saw dogs hanging out in the outside patio eating area with their masters. The place has a homegrown country feel with picnic tables and red checkered tablecloths. There are barrels of roasted peanuts and piles of dog bowls that you can self serve yourself peanuts and put them and the scraps in the dog bowls. The place has doggy biscuits the waitresses feed the dogs, along with water bowls and other doggy toys and treats. A very lovely feel to the place.

The food isn't quite "Bang for your Buck". Meals range from $7-$15 per person, and they're not gigantic to where you can't finish a meal, and we've seen better deals. It's not cheap, but it's not pricey either, quite average but I expect more from my $9 at restaurants these days. Go there for the family feel and a nice night out.

Great Food

Chicken BBQ - YUM! Excellent stuff. Moist and falls off the bone. Well flavored and not overly sweet sauce, more savory. Great flavor and texture.

Cornbread - looks like a pancake as it's flat, but really really tasty. Plus it comes with this brown sugar butter that is absolutely divine. I would go just for the cornbread and chicken.

Fries - Yum yum yum. Crispy and well done.

Bordering Great/Good

Sweet Potato Fries - I have to give kudos to this restaurant for having this item on there and doing it really well. Crispy and good, with a nice change of sweetness to fries. Although I prefer salty french fries, the sweet potato fries were excellent for those people who would prefer it.

Tri Tip was good - on the border of good/great, although I thought the chicken was better. So if you're in the mood for tri tip this is a great place to go. BBQ flavor also excellent.

Good Food

Mac and Cheese - Good but relatively small portion. Appropriate portion for one person, but if i'm spoiled and when i'm used to paying for a side, I'm used to the side being gigantic. This was just a good portion so good for dieters and non leftover types.

Creamed Spinach - Good stuff :) Sorta watery and not too much flavor but good. But small portion size as well.

We're not itching to go back right away but we probably will go back to try their ribs, coleslaw, corn dogs, wings, potato skins and a ton of other items. It has a great variety. Overall it looked like a local favorite, very southern and home cooking type, and overall yummy. Pricey for "dive" but it is on Ventura Blvd. I'd enjoy it for Lunch I think more than dinner, although it's great food for both probably.

It gets great points for character and charm though, and with some tasty fresh new items on there. I love the fact that it's dog friendly and there are dog bowls and barrels of fresh roasted peanuts. It's the kind of place that I think the more we go there the more we may like it and over time it may get bumped into my "favorites" category. Will definitely go back and reorder the chicken and cornbread and maybe take some to-go for home. Good eats definitely.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Grilled Zucchini with Goat Cheese & Pine Nuts

Who says that a good recipe has to be complicated? I made dinner tonight, after visiting the local farmer's market, and experimented with a new recipe. Every cook has a few favorite ingredients... I think I could eat goat cheese on just about anything. The toasted pine nuts made a fantastic crunch.

Recipe courtesy of Lawry's.

Grilled Zucchini with Goat Cheese & Pine Nuts

Ingredients

1/2 cup lemon pepper marinade (such as Lawry's), divided
2 lbs. zucchini, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

Directions

In a large ziploc bag, pour 1/4 cup of marinade over sliced zucchini and turn to coat (or... do like I do and go nuts - shake it like you're a little kid and hope the bag doesn't pop open, spraying the ceiling with veggies). Close bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Remove zucchini from bag and discard marinade. Grill or broil zucchini, turning once and brushing frequently with remaining 1/4 cup marinade. Cook 6 minutes or until tender. Chop coarsely. Toss zucchini with pine nuts and top with cheese.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Marinade time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pho So 1


(818) 996-6515
7231 Reseda Blvd, Reseda, CA 91335
Crosstreet Sherman Way

Pho So this place is awesome! It's a local Vietnamese dive which is delicious and you get giant bowls of soup and food for about $6 each. The service is fast and friendly, and their menu consists of like 100 items, of which the #45 beef or ham and eggroll with cold vermicelli noodles and #18 appetizer rare steak are popular and delicious. The shrimp pho #22 is pretty good as well.

I took a chance and got the #52 which was AMAZING. It was a duck curry with rice noodles. It came with some flavored salt and lime which I poured in and it made it extra tasty. I only managed to eat half the dish and had leftovers as usual, but that means twice the enjoyment! In my opinion, the most delicious dish and i'll have to try hard to order something else and try something new next time I go.

They always serve you a small saucer of other spices and sauces so I've been told just throw the whole thing in with your bowl, but be sure to taste it for spiciness or flavor preference, in case you want to temper the amount. But overall good food :)

Great value, great atmosphere. Some tables had hot pot type cooking things and other various steaming bowls. We took some white boys there and they enjoyed it. We saw some white families along with Asian and a variety of people there, so there's something for everyone.

Oh and don't wait around for a check. It's a Denny's style, take yourselves up to the counter and pay thing. We sat around for awhile waiting for a waiter and/or to-go box, but we had some great conversation in the meantime.

It looks like the place is popular and has been around for awhile, so it has potential for becoming a local legend, if it isn't already. So go try it :)

California Wok

818-386-0561
16656 Ventura Blvd. (Petit Ave.) Encino, CA 91436
California Wok

This place is ok. We drove down Ventura Blvd. and saw a sign for "California Wok, healthy Chinese food". So we decided to try it. They have a large array of dishes, but no Pork - booooo! We had dinner there although their Lunch menu looked like it had the most food for the best value. Approximately $6-7 for a dish with a side of rice, salad, soup and fortune cookies. I was actually sad I couldn't order the lunch menu for dinner. Zagat rated well, so overall the restaurant was well liked and safe. Plus a lot of healthy options that you may love.

They have regular family size portions for about $9-11 and personalized half size portions about $5-7. Although you could still take home half of the half size portions after eating. I ordered Sesame Beef which I think was too sweet but boyfriend said they tasted better as leftovers. Personally I think Panda has better sweet beef and pork. We chose brown rice on the side, delicious well cooked with great flavor and texture.

Boyfriend got the Moo Shoo Chicken which was very tasty and good. It came with tortilla like things and spicy sauce which you could wrap it in like a burrito or wrap or whatever. The combo of the sweet Sesame beef and Moo Shoo complimented each other well. I think multiple dishes might enhance the flavors and experience. Overall good stuff, although I wouldn't call it great.

There are a million other items on the menu so perhaps there are "great" dishes out there, but we have yet to try them :) Will keep you updated. We'll probably go back eventually and try something new.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Meat Locker

The Meat Locker in Thousand Oaks
2684 East Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
(805)495-3211

Drive by The Meat Locker in Thousand Oaks and you'll probably miss it. Drive by once more and you might miss it again. The Meat Locker is one of the oldest eateries in Thousand Oaks but definitely worth checking out. There isn't much decor to the place, but the food is fantastic. They grill their meat outdoors and serve it up inside. It's pretty typical barbecue fair - sandwiches, ribs, chicken and chips, potato salad, garden salad or macaroni salad as side dishes. You can never go wrong with they lunch specials - a tri-tip sandwich and choice of 2 salads plus a drink for 8 bucks. The barbecue sauce they have is excellent. Seating is outdoors on picnic tables or inside on a bar counter, underneath the autographed celebrity photos. I always get the tri-tip sandwich but everything else I've seen and tried here as been nothing short of great.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Pizza Cookery

6209 Topanga Canyon
Woodland Hills, CA 91304
http://www.pizzacookery.com/

The Pizza Cookery is one of those places where you can say you never had anything that wasn’t great. No matter what kind of Italian food you favor, these guys make it, and make it well.

The House Salad: They keep it simple and it works wonders. Lettuce, tomato, garbanzo beans, gobs of fresh mozzarella and a house Italian dressing that you wish you could figure out how to make at home.

The Works Pizza: Layered expertly with everything in the kitchen, from sliced meatballs, pepperoni, and garden’s worth of vegetables. This is the best jumble of goodies served up on fresh dough and just the right amount of sauce.

And of course, the bread. Fresh pizza dough wrapped around fresh garlic and mozzarella cheese. Served with a monster side of whipped butter – good luck saying “no.”

F. McLintocks Saloon & Dining House

750 Mattie Road
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Phone: (805) 773-1892
Website: http://www.mclintocks.com/

My family bonded annually (and sometimes more than annually) over brunch and dinner at this favorite location in Pismo Beach. From the freeway, you can’t miss the giant cowboy.

For brunch, order anything you like, but don’t skip the famous “McLintocks potatoes” – the best hash browns you’ll ever have. My dad almost perfected a copy of this recipe, but we still have to go back for the real thing.

For dinner, this is a great chop house, so you can’t go wrong with steak of any kind. We’ve also indulged a few times with surf and turf, and the lobster was great.

Aside from the food, this place loves to turn a meal into a family event. Kids’ meals come with a reward – we all have fun memories of rummaging through a saddle bag of cheap toys for our plate-cleaning prize. And watch your water glass. Servers pour from as high as they can possibly reach, and can tend to make a bit of a splash with the show.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Universal Citywalk, CA
Phone: (818) 753-4867
http://www.bubbagump.com/

As my husband put it, “This place is terrible for you… and delicious.” Whether you order your shrimp fried, spicy, doused in butter, slathered in cheese, or topped with rich sauces (or a combination of the above), you really can’t go wrong.

Favorites:

I'm Stuffed Shrimp: Great, big shrimp stuffed with crab, baked in garlic butter, on top of rice, then topped with cheese.

Chipotle Parmesan Shrimp: Perfect, bite-sized shrimp cooked in a creamy chipotle sauce, thrown over rice. The combination of cheese and spice was eyebrow-raisingly good. My husband hasn’t stopped talking about this entrée since we left.

Strawberry Shortcake: Lots and lots of melting ice cream, whipped cream, strawberries and sauce on top of a giant, homemade biscuit. Awesome.

Take or Leave It:

I like the drinks here, but don’t expect to get too buzzed. The lava flows and pina coladas are thick and sweet, and the margaritas are pretty good.

Chocolate Cake in a Jar: I could skip this. It was a bit burnt on the outside and too gooey in the middle, without enough ice cream on top to make it worthwhile.


Kit Kat's Reviews

Blue Hawaiian Drink - Tasty drink and a good value at $6. Quenched the thirst.

Hush Puppies - YUMMY! Appetizer of deep fried balls of crab, potato, etc and they're really good. Surprisingly not oily but crisp and flavorful. Comes in a fun pail with cole slaw underneath.

Cajun Shrimp - Really good with a really nice zing. The spice stays in your mouth mildly and doesn't go down your throat. YUM! I did enjoy this.

Cajun Chicken Sandwich - my boyfriend and I split this, yes at a seafood place. Anyway it was DELICIOUS. I was surprised but it had bacon, avocado, deliciously seasoned cajun chicken, and overall very well balanced and tasty.

I'm Stuffed Shrimp - A regular favorite of mine. Can't go wrong with garlic, butter, cheese, rice and shrimp. Although heavy and oily. Plus overall the same flavor every bite. Compared to the Cajun spices - not nearly as flavorful or savory.

Mudd Pie - Had a bite of this and it was alright. If you like chocolate ice cream you'll really enjoy it. But for me it was alright. It was huge so you could feed probably 8 people with this one cake. Good stuff.

Bread Pudding - Oh wow. It was great! Amazingly yum. Very flavorful and warm and great texture. Good size too. Can probably feed 4, but if you had a lot for dinner, could probably feed 6 or more.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sumo Sushi

1714 Newbury Road
Newbury Park, CA 91320

So my husband and I felt adventurous last night. With our 20% off coupon in hand, we were lured into Sumo. I have no better way to say this: It was awful.

The atmosphere of the place is lovely. Contemporary funk is all around with odd lanterns, colorful glasses, and squishy booths. The service was terrible. Although there were plenty of waiters wandering around, none ever stopped at a table. The sushi took an unreasonable amount of time to assemble and serve. A woman even came to the front desk to announce that Sumo provided the worst service she’d ever received.

My favorite part of the night: I ordered wine. There were about 12 on the list – probably 5 brands and few varieties of each. The waiter came back to say they were out of the cabernet I’d ordered, so I tried another. He never came back. When the waitress took our sushi order, I tried again. She came back to say that they have 2 wines in stock: a crappy chardonnay and a crappy chardonnay. No, thanks.

Snow Roll: Just don’t do it. Avocado and cream cheese, wrapped with halibut. I’m not sure why we thought this sounded good, but the end result was terrible. They bake the halibut on the outside, which makes the cream cheese inside an indigestible temperature.

Shrimp and tuna roll: Also not okay. They ground the tuna into a chopped paste inside the sushi. Quality tuna should be a firm slab of fish and melt in your mouth without the help of a grinder. It was doused in some sort of watery vinaigrette.

Tempura asparagus and shrimp: Now this one tasted okay. Sadly, though, they packed it with so many foods that it was the diameter of a baseball bat, and impossible to eat. The lettuce inside was brown.

So, four big thumbs down on Sumo. If you’re looking for some good sushi in the area, try Ocean Blue. I’m definitely skipping the adventure and going back there next time!

The Palace Grill


The Palace Grill in Santa Barbara has to be mentioned on this blog. They say that it's the best Cajun food this side of the Mississippi River, and it's definitely in my top 3 restaurants of all time. I've been there so many times, and I have NEVER had a bad experience, or tasted anything that came out of their kitchen that wasn't extraordinary. My family has a tradition of going to The Palace for birthdays. At first, we would go 1-2 times a year for my mom's, or mine, or whatever. Now, we go anytime we can - birthdays, dinner if we had someone visiting from out of town, or just because we were up in SB!

Details:
The Palace Grill
8 E Cota Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
tel: 805.963.5000

I'm going to switch it up here and break my review down by groupings, since there is soo much to love about this place.

Bread: They serve the most amazing little muffins instead of bread. My favorite is the molasses walnut one.

Starters: They have a bunch of great appetizers, but the one I always get with dinner is the Cajun Crawfish Popcorn. My favorite, however, is one that they only serve with lunch - Flash Fried Artichoke Hearts. It's like little pieces of gold sent from heaven for your taste buds. Your Palace experience is not complete until you have had these.

Main Courses: My hands down favorite is the Blackened Filet Mignon. The filet is always cooked to perfection, and the flavors make your mouth water before they even touch your lips. Other faves include the Chicken Tchoupitoulas and the Jambalaya Pasta.

Desserts: This is not the restaurant at which you skip dessert. Even at lunch time. Their house dessert is the Louisiana Bread Pudding Souffle. It is out of this world. Order it with your meal, because they need time to bake up your own little souffle. They also have a Dark Chocolate Souffle, which we have tried. It's amazing as well, but we always go back to the bread pudding.

Coffee: They serve the classic New Orleans-style chicory coffee, as well as regular coffee AND espresso drinks. I always get coffee with our dessert here, because it just feels like it completes the dining experience for me.

Good for:
- Everything!
- Lunch
- Romantic dinners
- Flash fried artichoke hearts and bread pudding

Addy's Rating: 10/10!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chin’s

I have three words for you: Pineapple fried rice.

15721 Bernardo Heights Pkwy
San Diego, CA 92128
Phone: (858) 676-0166
Website: http://www.visitchins.com/

My husband and I found this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant on vacation in San Bernardo. There are various locations around San Diego, and I’d highly recommend you look them up. Their food and service were fantastic.

We indulged in pork and broccoli, veggie chow mein, and pineapple fried rice. The food was so good that we insisted on taking the leftovers back to our hotel, even though we had no fridge.

I also can’t believe I’ve never had fried rice with pineapple before – it seems like such a perfect combination overlooked by other Chinese restaurants! Until I find one closer to home, we’ll be dreaming of Chin’s.

Susina Bakery & Cafe

7122 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: (323) 934-7900
http://www.susinabakery.com/

I feel like I shouldn’t write this review until I have experienced more of Susina, but on the few occasions I have, it’s been amazing. So... I want to spread the word.

Our fist encounter with the Bakery was when my sister pawned a piece of Americano cake off a neighboring birthday party at dinner. When the cake box was opened, everyone ooohed and aaahed over the thing. It was a 3-layer cake glorified in curls of white chocolate, dark chocolate, and butterscotch. Inside was chocolate cake brushed with coffee liquor, chocolate mousse and coffee whipped cream. It really wasn’t any wonder why my sister special ordered one from Los Angeles when her birthday came around this month.

On my next birthday, there will be a Bear cake involved. Undoubtedly. I have yet to try out their sandwiches or salads, but believe me, I’m on my way soon… So if you're in the LA area for any reason, call me and I'll have you pick up a cake!


**Special edit by Addy: OH WOW this place has the best croissants I have EVER had. No joke. I've been to France. These are better. If you are ever in the area, GET ONE.
** Update, 5/27: Yes, I drove all the way to LA for this bakery (and to meet a friend in the area). I bought a few goodies, including croissants for Addy.
Bear Cake: Oh yes, it's chocolate overload. Chocolate cake with creamy, regular chocolate mousse (my favorite layer) and white chocolate mousse. The perfect combination to switch between a bite here and a bite there.
Fruit Tart: For the non-chocolate lovers in the family, this went over amazingly well.
Coconut Cake: This white cake is layered with coconut custard and a thin layer of chocolate ganache. Covered in super-sweet vanilla frosting and mounds of sweetened coconut.
Chocolate Raspberry Cake: Chocolate cake layered with more lovely chocolate mousse and raspberries. They must have marinaded the raspberries, because they were especially flavorful.
Also, a note: The menu says a 9-inch cake serves 8-10. My family consists of big eaters and we don't skimp on cake slices. Even so, the cake would have fed 18.

Gladstone’s

17300 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Phone: (310) 454-3474
Website: http://www.gladstones.com/

Lower your expectations a little for Gladstone’s and you’ll have a great time. I think so many people come to the restaurant expecting fancy seafood, and they’re disappointed. This is good, solid food, but can be a little pricey. It’s the price you pay for being right on the beach…

Gladstone’s serves a great selection of fish, and some of the best clam chowder you’ll ever have. I could skip all the rest of their entrees and indulge in clam-chowder dunked sourdough bread. Cheap and easy.

Their steamers are classic – nothing special, just covered in butter and yummy! Their seafood is fresh and unelaborate. And their fried clams (if you can find them on the menu) have always been a family favorite.

The last time we were there, I think I ordered the parmesan halibut, but I can’t tell you how it was because the power went out. We were fed free clam chowder and bargained our way into a slice of cake for the road too… and even without a full course, everything was amazing.

If you order the chocolate cake, invite over the next table. A single slice has to weigh 5 pounds, and could last (even me) a week.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring $4 for parking.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

C’est La Vie Restaurant & Bakery

373 So. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: (949) 497-5100
Website: www.cestlavierestaurant.com

I love any restaurant where my husband can order dinner while I indiscreetly skip right over all of that and go directly to dessert. If you visit C’est La Vie, you won’t ask why.

Although the café serves a fabulous array of French cuisine, from fancy quiches to warm and gooey grilled sandwiches, good luck holding out that long. You have no other option but to walk past the bakery display on your way in. It’s a genius trick, and it works.

Creations change daily, so if you find something that catches your eye, don’t wait to come back another day! (I sadly found this out the hard way. Someday, my little chocolate mousse, I will be back…)

The back patio is packed, but offers a great view of the Laguna area. The view, a chilled white wine, and a sinful bakery snack is the perfect combination for taking in the ocean air and people-watching. This is the ideal place to sit and rest after a long day of shopping in Laguna.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cake Balls

I originally found the concept/recipe for these on Bakerella's blog, and just had to try them out for myself! They were a huge hit, so I am linking the post HERE for your viewing (and drooling) pleasure!

Philippe's

1001 N. Alameda St.
Los Angeles CA. 90012
(213) 628-3781

Philippe's is awesome. Located in downtown Los Angeles, it's been around since 1908 and judging by the way they operate, not much has changed. They claim to be the inventors of the French Dip sandwich, and although accounts and stories vary, I choose to believe them. There are traditionally long lines until you get to the front of the counter, where the cashier assembles all sandwiches. The house specialty is their dip sandwiches - you can choose from the original beef dip, or get pork, ham, lamb, or turkey. I always go with the beef dip (specify if you want it double-dipped) with swiss cheese. Traditional sides are macaroni salad, potato salad, chips and soups.

Seating is at long tables with barstool seats, so you're typically sharing some table space with families, corporate suits, old couples, all walks of life. Sometimes the lines are deep and I've waited up to 30 minutes just to get up to the cash register. Is it worth it? Of course. The sandwiches are awesome and the atmosphere is even better. It's located close to Union Station and not far from Olvera Street and Chinatown, so you can easily make a day out of one of those locations and swing over here for lunch. Parking can be a hassle but the name of the game at Philippe's is patience. It's a downtown landmark and if you haven't been there at least once, you're really missing out.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Hero


My Hero
9514 Reseda Boulevard
Northridge, CA 91324
(818) 349-4255

A local legend in the San Fernando Valley serving up the best submarine sandwiches around. They add a legendary tomato salad to most subs and it's a great dive for local starving college students, baseball teams and overall sub lovers. I actually went to CSUN and only discovered this place after I graduated.

Look for this gem on the corner of Plummer and Reseda in the same parking lot as the Baskin Robbins and hidden behind the Jiffy Lube. They only accept cash and as long as you have a $20 you can feed 3-4 people, subs costing about $5-8.

The owner Rosie has worked there countless years and took over the business from the original family owners and now it belongs to her family. You'll most likely see Rosie with tons of elephant jewelry at the cash register taking your order and serving up some sweetness and hospitality. It truly is a family owned and family run business, so go visit and make sure they stay in business for a long time.

Make sure to order Rosie's Special - its the BEST :) We've tried other subs and personally they're not worth mentioning as they don't compare to this one. Although in hopes to be a good food critic I will go back and try other subs to give people a better selection of the menu.

This place has a lot of character so make sure to chat up the people there and check out the walls. The wall of fame has interesting things such as local celebrities that have signed their names along with, news clippings, info on local teams and personal messages from loyal fans.



Friday, May 9, 2008

Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge

Gaslamp Quarter
801 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-233-1183
Website: Mister Tiki

This is one of my favorite places to dine in San Diego. Okay, well, this is one of my favorite places to drink in San Diego, but the food’s good too. The decorations are eclectic and lively. Tables have lava lamps and hand-blown, glass puffer fish hang in schools from the ceiling.

Last time I visited, I was disappointed to learn Tiki had discontinued my favorite drink - a key lime pie martini. It was the perfect combination of pineapple juice, pineapple rum, vanilla vodka, and whipped cream, rimmed in smashed graham crackers. If you ask the bartender, he may still make you one, sans the rim. If not, try the Coconut Kiss – it’s sinful.

The beef short ribs are as close as you can get to the real thing from HI. They also make my kind of sushi – sweet and crunchy. And they’ve figured out just what every meals needs – a tiny dessert. Tiki’s was one of the first locations to offer dessert bites in shot glasses, so no matter how full you are, you can fit in one more. Try the tiramisu or strawberry cheesecake.

Friends Cafe - Port Hueneme

I was a little hesitant to blog about this place, since it's one of our favorite places for breakfast and I almost wanted to keep it a secret... But it's out of the way enough that only true Ventura County-ers will go, so here you are!

Details:
Friends Cafe
429 E Port Hueneme Rd
Port Hueneme, CA 93041
tel: (805) 271-9641
Open for breakfast and lunch

There is a very beachy and family owned feel to this little cafe. It's small, but clean, and in the several times that we've gone, we've never had to wait for more than a minute or two to be seated. It can get crowded with familys later on the weekend mornings, but the food is worth it. Best Eggs Benedict I've ever had, perfectly poached eggs, perfectly toasted English muffin, and surprisingly fantastic hollandaise sauce. I was actually shocked that it was so good - the cafe does not seem like the place for gourmet Eggs Benedict, but there it was!

They also have decent "combos" and good omlets, and we have also enjoyed the breakfast burrito there.

Good for:
- Early morning breakfast
- EGGS BENEDICT
- Great coffee and tea

Addy's Rating: 9/10

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Squares

Yummy, EASY to make snack cake that tastes like churros with cheesecake inside. Recipe courtesy of kraftfoods.com.
Ingredients:
2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls, divided
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Unroll 1 of the cans of crescent dough. Press onto bottom of greased 13x9-inch baking pan to form crust, firmly pressing seams together to seal.

BEAT cream cheese, vanilla, egg and 1/2 cup of the sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Spread onto crust.

UNROLL remaining can of crescent dough onto large sheet of wax paper. Pat out dough to form 13x9-inch rectangle, pressing seams together to seal. Invert over cream cheese mixture to form top crust; discard wax paper.

BAKE 30 to 35 min. or until golden brown. Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over squares before cutting.

Duke's

On the Sand at the Outrigger Waikiki
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 116
Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: (808)- 922-2268
Open for breakfast, lunch & dinner
Website: http://www.dukeswaikiki.com/

The best drinks in the house are Kalapaki Ritas – a margarita made of tequila, triple sec, passion fruit and pineapple juice. Make sure to order one while you’re at this location, because they aren’t made on the mainland! And although you can find Lava Flows all over the Waikiki area, Duke’s are some of the best.

Duke’s dinner menu has some great food but can get pricey, so we usually stick to the bar menu. It’s just as good. Favorites include the macadamia nut crab wontons, a huge pile of waffle fries, or occasionally they offer specials like beef dip au jus.

At the Water's Edge in Malibu
21150 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
Phone: (310) 317-0777
Open for lunch & dinner
Website: http://www.dukesmalibu.com/

In comparison to the Waikiki location, it’s disappointing that Duke’s in Malibu doesn’t have any beaches to wander. But it still has a spectacular view of the surf from its cliffside perch.

The menu here lets you to select any fish of the day and its preparation. My favorite: Parmesan and herb crusted mahi. I only wish they’d splurge on a few more macadamia nuts in the mix. And yes, the hula pie is just as good as they claim, so skip the appetizers like coconut shrimp (which is still pretty great with its super-sweet lilikoi sauce!) to save room for it.

Tiki’s Bar and Grill

Tiki’s Bar above the ResortQuest hotel is the epitome of what you’d expect on the main drag of Waikiki. Drinks can be ordered in ceramic tiki mugs and tiki lamps burn brightly all night long. Feeling the theme? What will surprise you is the strength of their drinks and the quality of their food!

2570 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815-3663
Open for lunch and dinner
Phone: (808) 923-TIKI
Website: http://www.tikisgrill.com/

Their mai tais were a little too strong for my taste, but (luckily) the bar also provides a great selection of local beer. We moved on to dinner in the main dining room and were not disappointed. My husband ordered a steak that he was able to cut with a butter knife. I munched on the house poi bread with homemade banana butter. Way yummy. If we ever make it back, I plan on trying the seared scallops – they looked great.

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Waikiki Beach Marriot Resort and Spa
2552 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Phone: 808-931-6286
Website:
http://www.sanseihawaii.com/
Dinner Nightly: 5:30 P.M. to 10:00 P.M.
Late Night Dining: Friday & Saturday, 10 P.M. to 1 A.M.

Locals recommend this location as the best sushi in town, and they’re wrong. This is some of the best sushi I’ve had – period.

Sansei has some of the most delicious and innovative sushi combinations, without being too “exotic.” One of our favorite aspects of the sushi was the buttery sauces they were served in. Long after the sushi was gone, we dipped remnants of anything we could find into the leftover sauces, loving every morsel.

Favorites:
Tempura asparagus: Perfectly crispy.
Shrimp cake: If you can find your way through the mess of fried noodles on top, the shrimp cake underneath is amazing.
Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll: Instead of cold rice, the ahi is rolled in arugula and spinach, then flash fried in panko crumbs. This is the first sushi I can claim “melted in my mouth.”

Bonus:
Friday and Saturday nights from 10:00 pm to 1:00 am, the menu is half off!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Caffe Lucio - Santa Cruz

We had a really great dinner in Santa Cruz at this place called Caffe Lucio. It was awesome. Lucio is this wiry little Italian guy (that's him on their logo) who is just bursting with energy and so awesome to everyone who walks in. He greets everyone in Italian, and I automatically responded in Italian. He then seemed to take a liking to us, rambling on in Italian while putting his arm around my shoulder and guiding us to our table.

Details:
381 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
tel: (831) 427-0164
Open for dinner
http://www.caffelucio.com/

We sat at the bar and shared Bruschetta di Caprino (bruschetta with goat's cheese and grilled marinated veggies), home made gnocchi with tomato sauce, and a thin crust pizza. It was amazing. If you are ever in Santa Cruz, you MUST go there. Everyone working there just seemed to be having a fantastic time.

The pizza cook was wearing this hilarious shirt that said "Free Chorizo" and had an arrow pointing down, and the couple next to us at the bar commented on it. The woman was all "Has your mother seen that shirt??" And the cook just laughed and motioned Lucio over, pointing to his shirt. It said "Half Man," pointing up, and "Half Horse," pointing down. Later, we saw Lucio's very pregnant wife sporting a shirt over her huge belly that said "Lucio JR" on it. Points for the humor and having fun!

I've read a couple reviews that mentioned having to wait - we didn't have this problem, and we went on a Saturday night when there was a college reunion dinner taking place as well. The reviews also mention it being loud and Lucio yelling at waitstaff - it was a bit loud, but we did not witness any verbal abuse. My take was that he was very typically Italian - vibrant and a little bit abrassive. The prices were on the higher side, but that's sort of to be expected at an Italian place in a town with a high volume of tourists.

Good for:
- Atmosphere
- Romantic dinners
- Group events
- GREAT home made gnocchi and pizza

Addy's Rating: 9/10

Rise Supper Club - Los Angeles

A few weeks ago, we went to Hollywood & Highland to the restaurant Rise Supper Club (located at The Highlands Hollywood) for a friend's birthday. I wrote a longer blog about the birthday over at my regular site, but here are some of the details, pros and cons.

Details:
6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
(tel) 323.461.9800
Open for dinner
http://www.thehighlandshollywood.com/restaurant.html

Pros:
- We arrived a bit early for our reservation and were relieved that they still sat us right away
- Our waitress was awesome, paid attention to detail and went the extra mile
- They made up for our late food by adjusting the bill and giving us dessert on the house
- You get into the club for free if you have dinner there, plus you don't have to wait in line
- The menu was designed by a Wolfgang Puck chef
- The decorations were nice, if not a bit generically Los Angeles
- Lots of LA people, if that's your thing

Cons:
- It is pretty pricey
- Our food was served over a span of 25 minutes from first plate to last (for 8 people), so the first served's food was cold by the time the last served got her food
- The view wasn't as spectacular as they would lead you to believe
- They don't have beers on draft
- It is super trendy
- Lots of LA people, if that's not your thing

Food & Drink:
- BEST lemon drop martini I've ever had... I'm not even kidding, it was amazing
- Spicy tuna tartare, it was served on a crispy rice patty and was delicious
- The chicken breast dinner was tasty, as was the filet mignon, pad thai, and "Original Chow Fun"
- If I were to go back, I would definitely be trying the Beef Carpaccio

Good for:
- Birthdays, with a small to medium sized group
- Romantic dinners on the town
- Lemon drop martinis and Spicy Tuna Tartare

Addy's Rating: 7/10