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.