Posts Tagged ‘avocado’

NYC to Los Angeles: Foodie Reflections

April 28, 2015

It’s really hard to believe that it’s been almost two years from this date that I have touched this blog.  My last entry was right before I enjoyed Camp Blogaway in California and I dreamed about being here since that time. Fast forward and my journey has led me here to the city of Angels as of this past July.

I love blogging and I love writing. I love food. None of that went away when I wasn’t blogging here, but there was always a little sensation, a passing comment or curiosity peaked when I mentioned that I have a blog related to the culinary adventures I had documented here. Those little moments kept the blog alive for me even while I wasn’t faithfully writing.

So with that in mind, after a nearly two year respite of writing here, it only makes sense to me to share you with, dear readers, a journey from nearly 10 years in NYC to one in Los Angeles, a place I had wanted to be and now am, on this greater journey called life.

I was really fortunate to have experienced all the culinary delights I had the chance to explore in New York City – from City Lobster to Bell Book & Candle, Kaia Wine Bar, The London, Social Eatz, Koi, B. Smith’s, Dardanel, and my all time favorite (yes, I’m revealing it!) David Burke Townhouse, to name a few – these are not only the places I remember and have documented, but the moments I truly cherish in looking back on the delicious experiences – culinary and company wise, almost as if they were yesterday.  I remember exactly who I was sitting with and what the experience was like. After all, good food is supposed to take you right back to that moment you experienced it, right?

I don’t have a verdict yet on NYC vs. Los Angeles like you might be wondering as I’m still new-ish to Los Angeles, I can give you some compare and contrasts.  The biggest is certainly the distance. While in NYC you can easily get from delight to delight, Los Angeles is a bit harder in that way as it is very spread out. Both NYC and Los Angeles boast great chefs and great establishments so those are a fair comparison, and there are definitely hidden gems in both cities.

So what are some of my favorite haunts in Los Angeles thus far? Read on…

Greenbelt (36 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA) – Greenbelt serves everything using local farmer’s market produce and the dishes are delicious for it. I’ve now been for brunch, lunch and dinner and can tell you that you can’t choose a wrong item on this menu.  Depending on what meal you’re going for, I recommend the Grilled Avocado benedict with basil hollandaise. Best part? No bread and you get the healthy fats from the avocado with other great seasonal vegetables that’s filling and it’s also gluten-free for those who have any allergies. Lunch?  Go for a shared pizza like the burrata, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, basil and pesto. Simple and yummy. Dinner?  I love tuna so the Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with coconut black rice, shitake mushrooms and thai curry is great. Spicy alert on this one though, so the faint beware.

Grilled Avocado Benedict

Grilled Avocado Benedict

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (1305 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA) is the ultimate comfort food. I went on a weekday holiday with friends which was great as only on weekday holidays and weekends do they serve the eggs benedict which was delicious.  We also opted to share a side of what they are famous for – pancakes (when in Rome, right?) with coconut and chocolate chips. And for the view alone, the picture says it all.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict & Coconut Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Uncle Bill's

Uncle Bill’s

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach

Others not pictured?

Mediterraneo (73 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA) because of its can’t beat shared apps like the Deviled Eggs with harissa oil, Roasted Dates prosciutto wrapped and stuffed with cambozola blue cheese (my favorite on the menu), Polpette beaf meatballs with San Marzano tomato sauce and parmagiano (really you can’t go wrong with anything here), in addition to the very carefully crafted cocktails, do yourself a favor and check it out. Plus you can walk off dinner as you’ll be right by The Strand for a lazy afternoon or crisp evening beach walk.

Manhattan Beach Post (1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA), it’s called a “Social House” for a reason. It’s always busy. And the food and scene is why. I also came on a Sunday for brunch when it’s likely at its peak. But it’s entirely worth the wait starting with some Bacon Cheddar biscuits with maple butter like the tasty ones at Red Lobster (but better) and for shared plates like the French Toast stuffed with house ricotta, bartlett pears and candied almonds and the benedict (yes of course I had to try it, lest you forget the name of my blog).  What else is cool?  The fact that the menu changes seasonally and on the whim of a chef. Can’t hate on that.

Zinc at the Shade Hotel (1221 N. Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach, CA) come for brunch, walk the beach later. Or come during the week and enjoy one of the festive cocktails like the Are You Man Enough? with the Patron Silver Tequila, Veev acai spirit, agave, lime and muddled jalapenos or for a less spicy option the Aviation with gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqeur and creme de violette.

Ok, ok, you’re asking where are all the places not at the beach?  Don’t worry, my friends, I have you covered!

Check out:

Taste on Melrose (8454 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA) – their tagline is “eat, drink, indulge” and that my friends, you can do. I came with some friends who also happen to be awesome work colleagues and we shared the calamari and Pommes Frites with garlic aioli and remoulade. They have great dishes all around whether you’re going healthier with a grilled natural salmon, or more indulgent like the Rigatoni Bolognese I tried.  Fun fact: Grilled cheese night is every Tuesday and you can add their housemade Pommes Frites for only $5. Yep.

Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa (Multiple locations, I went to 4722 1/4 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA) – You can’t explain this sushi, you just have to try it for yourself. It’s served warm and melt in your mouth worthy. I know what you’re thinking. After I was in NYC for so long, can it get any better?  But this truly is an experience.  If you’re really hungry, go for the Nozawa Trust Me. It’s worth it. It includes organic edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore, salmon and yellowtail sushi, halibut sushi, Toro hand roll, Blue Crab hand roll and the daily special.

041 Bacaro (9552 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA) Chef Conrad came from NYC so that’s almost enough to be said there, but there is true Italian love in this food. Try the roasted brussel sprouts or french fries with truffle oil to start (or both if you’re sharing) and the entrees speak for themselves though I enjoyed the risotto with mixed wild mushrooms. It’s like a slice of Little Italy NYC. Go.

And of course there are more to come.  Have a must try place for me to check out?  Feel free to comment here whether you’re an Angeleno or just know some great spots here in the City of Angels.

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The Beauty of Home(made)

April 28, 2013

Dear readers:

I know it’s been several months since I’ve had the opportunity to post, and for that, I am truly apologetic. But as I know fellow foodies and their busy schedules and explorations of all the new restaurants, I also know you’ll understand as I look to get back on track. To this end, I’m writing a post that makes me feel close to home (and heart).

There is truly nothing like the beauty of homemade cuisine. Sure, you can always feel like it’s a taste of home when you’re at your favorite restaurant or delectably enjoying the cuisine that takes you to that special place, but there is nothing like being the one slaving over the stove or having someone else do it for you to really understand the beauty of true enjoyment.

I had not only one, but two recent special occasions, where a home cooked meal was prepared especially for me (the special person knows who they are). It’s one thing to already appreciate the person who is doing it for you, but there is an extra special level when the food is absolutely delicious and prepared with love. On the first occasion, I had the opportunity to enjoy a pork chop (yes, it takes a while to cook according to the special chef who prepared it for me), stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, spinach and cheese. (The sauce was a secret recipe that the chef wouldn’t share with me).  It was paired with rice and topped with an olive – check out the amazing presentation!

photo 9

The second homemade dish I had the opportunity to enjoy was a steak that was specially marinated with mushrooms (again, chef’s secret) with plantains and avocado – yum!

photo 12

After being inspired by the special chef who cooked for me, I decided it was time to get more savvy in the kitchen and I opted to take a cooking class with friend and RD, Diane Henderiks.  She hosted us at the lovely cooking studios of Taste and Technique in Fairhaven, NJ (yes, I traveled all the way out to Jersey for the class) where we learned how to make “Culinary Concoctions.”  What was great is she showed us ways to use our leftovers from Shrimp and Arugula Salad to Turkey Taco Night to Chimichurri Skirt Steak with coffee grinds from your own coffee maker – delicious!

After a successful cooking class evening, I sought to create my own dinner for the special chef and while it may not have been as fancy, it certainly still tasted delicious and left the chef satisfied, which was the best part to thank him for the culinary skills he had shared with me to enjoy.

David Burke Townhouse

January 16, 2011

David Burke truly captured the kid in me with his whimsical, non-traditional take on food. I enjoyed the best meal of my life here to date (believe it or not) at David Burke Townhouse at 133 East 61st Street (between Park and Lexington). Seriously. If this were what food heaven would taste like, it would be this.

David Burke Townhouse

Our experience started as we walked in the door with exciting cocktails including the Raspbertinni which reminded me of an iced holiday punch with a little kick including raspberries and a touch of prosecco. My friend enjoyed the spiced cider which is brewed on the spot at the bar and coupled with a little cinnamon stick (yes, it does go straight to your head).  Also delightful is the fact that David draws his specials every night featuring different signature offerings such as the Parfait of Big Eye Tuna and Salmon Tartares. We also had a chance to say hi to one of the Humptys on the bar which I’m told is sort of an official mascot as the egg is a signature of David’s.

Specials hand-drawn

Cocktail napkins

Raspbertinni

Spiced Cider

Humpty

In keeping with the egg, it was only apropos that the chef brought us a hard-boiled egg without the egg. You got the hard shell to eat out of but inside were all sorts of goodies including an avocado sorts of filling (this one was a mystery as I didn’t see it on the menu and it doesn’t really matter since I couldn’t stop myself from spooning out everything inside this golden egg).

Dinner plate

Golden Egg

Following this, we fell in love with two appetizers, a Townhouse Wedge and Laughing Bird Shrimp salad featuring iceberg lettuce, cranberries, almonds, bacon lardons and Russian dressing and a Pretzel Crusted Crabcake with tomato orange chutney and poppy seed honey. I seriously don’t know what they do with this crabcake but you won’t be able to get enough of it.

Iceberg wedge

Pretzel Crusted Crabcake

As if the appetizers weren’t more than completely satisfactory, our taste buds were abuzz with the main courses we selected including a Roasted & Crispy Seawater Soaked Organic Chicken with whipped potatoes, red cabbage, picked pears and BBQ jus. I enjoyed the Duck Duck Duck, aptly named with a trio of duck delights including a seared breast, confit thigh and foie gras dumpling with mustard cabbage, celery root and cranberry marmalade.

One of the coolest parts of our dining experience may have been the fact that we got a private tour of the kitchen. And I have to tell you, these amazing chefs crank out the best food as I’ve already described in one of the smallest places you can imagine. I’m told that it can be packed wall to wall in here with more than just the chefs we saw working last night and they will always get the job done. I suppose it’s also the familial vibe that you can see runs through the entire restaurant from the moment you walk in the door to the love in your food – David really cares about his employees and in turn, they more than deliver.

David Burke Townhouse kitchen

To finish the evening (which is sad when you have such a wonderful experience), we ordered David Burke’s Cheesecake Lollipop Tree which included a sampling of cheesecake lollipops including strawberry and chocolate finished off with raspberries and bubble gum whipped cream. (My friend is witness to the fact that all I wanted to do was lick the bowl with the bubble gum whipped cream – the essence was perfect).

David Burke's Cheesecake Lollipop Tree

I dare you not to behave like a kid again or at least feel like you’ve shooed away your adulthood for a few years after eating here. You can even take home your goodies in a Burke in the box. Genius!

Burke in the box

A Little Columbian Flair

October 24, 2010

It takes a rare occurence to get me to leave Manhattan for another borough as my friends can tell you, but it proved to be worth it on Friday when I set out to Jackson Heights, Queens to see my friend Ray perform at Teatro Natives in “Yes I Yes,” an all Spanish play about a girl who wants to learn how to rap.

Following the performance I had the chance to dine on authentic Columbian cuisine at Natives, 82-22 Northern Blvd. in Jackson Heights.

Natives

One of the most exciting parts about dinner was the Columbian sodas, specifically, Postobon, an apple flavored soda (and pink colored just like the can), with 46 grams of sugar that got everyone excited at the table with hilarity (and salsa dancing!) ensuing immediately following. The Columbian soda was also good which was orange and tasted like cream soda.

Postobon!

Columbian soda

After sufficiently caffeinating ourselves, we enjoyed the main course. I chose an “Especialidades Natives” (Natives special), the Bandeja tipica con carne molida, which included seasoned ground beef with rice, finished with an over easy egg, plantains, beans, pork rind and avocado (and yes, I did order in Spanish).

Especialidades Natives - Bandeja tipica con carne molida

While I didn’t have room to enjoy dessert, my friend tried the Flan de leche:

Flan de leche

After this trip I decided that perhaps it is worthwhile checking out some outer borough cuisine – even if it’s just the authentic sodas with 46 grams of sugar that convinced me!

Food from the Bay

August 30, 2010
Last week, I had a chance to visit the City by the Bay (San Francisco) for a quick business trip. Of course, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without some fine eats in what I heard was a culinary haven.

After settling in at the hotel, my colleague and I ventured to one of the few restaurants which remained open at 9:45 p.m. with less than 10 minutes before the last seating (this ‘aint New York, folks). I had a hankering for sushi, so we made our way to Kyo-ya at 2 New Montgomery Street, touted as “San Francisco’s premier Japanese restuarant.” According to the website, Chef Akifusa Tonai was a 2007 winner of the Master Sushi Chef competition (who knew?) 

I enjoyed the “Celebration roll” (which certainly looked like a party for your mouth) which featured lobster, avocado, tuna, white fish and tobiko:

Celebration roll at Kyo-ya

After a jet-lagged meal, it was time to call it an evening.  The second night we enjoyed a dinner out at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar on 398 Hayes Street. The darkly lit French bistro was exactly what I needed after a long day and still feeling the time difference. 

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Top Chef Season 5 contestant Jamie Lauren was previously at the helm of this fine establishment, however, Adam Keough (of the Michael Mina dynasty of great eats) has now taken over as of August 17, so I got to enjoy food from the very newly appointed which I must say was absolutely delectable.  I started with the french fries served up with a homemade smoky tomato ketchup and sweet onion aioli, a side of marinated mixed olives, followed by the pinot-noir braised beef short ribs – exceptional.  To end the meal, we chose a selection of cheeses including the Stilton, Ossau Iraty (sheep’s milk) and the Robiola Bosina (cow’s milk). 

French fries

Marinated olives

Beef short ribs

Cheese plate

While it was only a short trip and I realize I have a lot more exploring to do, I ended my culinary adventure on a high before flying at the Virgin America Clubhouse. The Clubhouse serves up food, drinks and more while providing a comfortable area to relax, work and even shower. 

Virgin America Clubhouse

I cozied up to the bar and enjoyed a Virgin Kiss (essentially a cosmo), and a lunch of mixed greens salad with strawberries, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese followed by a wild mushroom bolognase.  I topped off the meal with a vanilla panna cotta (which I was told from the Sodexo Executive Chef was newly added to the menu).  Quick tip: If you’re an Elevate member on Virgin, you can access the Clubhouse by paying a nominal fee without having to be in First Class or Main Cabin Select (in SFO only).

Virgin Kiss

Mixed greens salad

Wild Mushroom Bolognase

Vanilla panna cotta

Needless to say, I’m definitely due for another trip out West in the near future.

Eating Hamptons Style

July 21, 2010

This past weekend I journeyed for my second weekend in the Hamptons since the big Memorial Day kick-off. With a Greek, Italian and Norwegian friend in tow, it was sure to be a blast.

We first found ourselves at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse (2393 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton, NY) which, according to the Website, was named aptly for a piano player who dazzled diners and is still family owned and operated.  The open, airy feel of the restaurant made for a perfect lunch with a classic shrimp cocktail and a crabmeat salad with avocado, bacon, carrots and fried wontons:

Shrimp cocktail at Bobby Vans

Crabmeat salad at Bobby Vans

 In keeping with our fine dining streak, we ventured in Saturday night to Trata (1020 Montauk Highway, Watermill, NY). While not named for a piano player dazzling diners, the Greeks will have you up dancing  (Trata is a traditional commemorative dance performed every two years in Attica, Greece).  We first started with a round of shared appetizers including the Pikilia, a sampling of five homemade Greek spreads including Tarama, Tzatziki and Skordalia amoung others; a signature Greek salad (Horiatiki); a salmon roll and the Octapodi (yes, that’s octopus and it’s delicious).

Pikilia at Trata

Salmon roll at Trata

For dinner, I opted for the house specialty in the whole fish selection with the Artic Char from Alaska perfectly cooked to fall off the bone while still retaining its flavor:

Artic Char at Trata

With all the fine food, we couldn’t miss out on the chance to sample some decadence and tried the Yiaourti, greek yogurt with three mix-ins including sour cherry, fig and quince – brilliant.  We also sampled the Sokolata, a warm chocolate cake which was then followed by a traditional Baklava.  After finishing dinner, you can top off your experience with a jaunt outside to the beautiful outdoor seating area and cozy up with a glass of white sangria made fresh onsite.

Yiaourti at Trata

Warm chocolate cake

Baklava at Trata

Certainly not a bad weekend to spend if you’re headed “out east.”

Cruisin’

October 24, 2009

I just got back from an amazing 7-day cruise vacation with my family onboard the Royal Caribbean’s “Freedom of the Seas” (currently, the world’s largest cruise ship until they sail the Oasis of the Seas in November)! 

We visited Royal Caribbean’s private island, Labadee, Haiti where I soared on a zip line 500 feet above the water for 2,600 feet (the longest zip line in the world over water), climbed a waterfall in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, sampled and made Mexican cuisine in Cozumel, Mexico and even jumped on a boogie board on Royal Caribbean’s “Flowrider” on the ship – amazing!  

Ocho Rios Cooking class

Flowrider Cooking class 2

Of course, my vacation wouldn’t have been complete without capturing my gastronomic adventure on and off the ship.  Below is an assortment of some of my favorite culinary delights:

Favorite dinner: Fresh lobster tail and shrimp combo with melted butter

Fresh lobster tail and shrimp combo

Most well-prepared dish: Braised lamb shank (perfectly complemented with mint jelly)

Braised lamb shank

Best breakfast: Puff pastry with salmon, egg and avocado

Puff pastry

Best classical invention: Prime rib (medium) over hollandaise sauce

Prime rib

Best app: Scallop risotto (’nuff said)

Scallop risotto

Tastiest dessert: Raspberry panna cotta

Raspberry panna cotta

Best drink: Margarita at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (believe it or not!)

Margarita

Best pasta: Gnocchi in cream sauce with ham and peas

Gnocchi

Favorite repeat dish: Shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail

Proud culinary moment: My plate at cooking class in Cozumel with mini “huaraches” (Spanish sausage, cube potatoes, corn dough, shredded lettuce, crumbled cheese, refried beans)

Mini huaraches

Biggest indulgence: My birthday cake (I only ate one piece folks):

Birthday cake

Shameless (non paid) plug: If you want to try out some of these recipes, you can pick up a copy of Royal Caribbean International’s “Savor” Cookbook Volume 2 – or better yet, take a cruise and let everyone do the cooking and clean up for you.