Tuesday, October 27, 2009

John Alan Wine Dinner at The Foundry on Melrose

What a pleasure it was attending John Alan Wine Dinner at the Foundry on Melrose. 5 courses of incredible Greenspan fare paired with wines from John Alan Winery in Paso Robles. Pardon my photos and video -- they were taken on my Blackberry.

Seared Scallops, garlic cream, pears and potato. John Alan, Viogner, Hidden Valley Ranch, Paso Robles 2007

Risotto of duck confit with blue cheese, dried cherries and mushrooms. John Alan, "Malcontent", Paso Robles, 2005

Breast of Duck with fresno chile and current mole, yellow corn, and fried masa. John Alan, "East Bank Cuvee", Paso Robles, 2006

Duo of beef with caraway and carrot puree, baby carrots, and golden raisins. John Alan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2006

Artisinal Cheeses with non traditional garnishes and raisin toast. John Alan, "Bonnr Terre Rouge", Paso Robles, 2006

Without a doubt, my favorite course was the breast of duck paired with the East Bank Cuvee. The hints of dried cherry in the wine paired perfectly with the currant mole.

The highlight of the evening was when Chef Eric Greenspan rushed from the kitchen into the private dining room shouting a description of the courses. Surprisingly, I don't watch Iron Chef so was unaware of what to expect. I'm just happy it was grasshopper-free. See video below:

The Birthday Binge of '09

During a time that I consider birthday season (my birthday falls in September) I was treated to a variety of exciting birthday dinners. I considered myself off duty and so have no pictures of all of the scrumptious things I devoured. Nonetheless, I wanted to sing the praises of a few establishments worthy of mentioning.

Lashers: I’ve lived in Long Beach for about 10 years and have heard tons of praise for Lashers but was a little skeptical because of the surrounding neighborhood which is a tad undesirable. My comments: Easily the best steak I’ve had all year (a really juicy Angus New York), a wonderful wine selection, and a great reminder of why I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (yes –a cliché!)

B & B Ristaurante : Mario Batali’s Italian restaurant located in the Venetian Hotel. The service was impeccable, and it was a treat sampling a grilled octopus appetizer and fennel dusted sweetbreads. My entrée was a fantastic lobster spaghettini (yep I played it a little safe), but the award for best birthday dessert goes to B&B’s exceptional berry tiramisu.
Fuego at the Maya: I’ve hesitated for months to review Feugo because it is my little neighborhood secret and I’m terrified that once it becomes even more popular, the food quality will plummet. I LOVE, ADORE, WORSHIP everything about the place from its awesome location overlooking the bay, to their perfectly crafted bloody marys and mojitos. They serve the most succulent lobster and I always order my beloved trio of guacamole.

I have to add that I had dinner at Asia de Cuba, my very favorite restaurant. ADC is consistently fabulous. The end.
And last but not least I the privilege of visiting the most creative, ingenious wine bar visited thus far in my search for the perfect red. The Hostile Grape at the M Resort in Las Vegas is a cut above most wine bars offering 1, 3 and 5 ounce pours of 160 wines. You purchase and load a tasting card and then proceed to the wine station of your choice. You then insert the card and wine is dispensed at whatever serving you require. This allows you to sample from amongst even highly rated, expensive wines. Brilliant! Imagine my surprise when Mosel offered me a pour of my favorite Opus One! Happy Birthday to me!
Above all, I am thankful for the love of friends and family -- those who took the time to worship me celebrate my 37th 25th birthday. Oh and thanks for the extra 10 pounds.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Le Chateau in Costa Mesa

My review of Le Chateau in Costa Mesa can be found here on Travel Costa Mesa's website. Enjoy!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Stefan's at LA Farm

Most food fanatics and reality TV junkies (like me) will recognize Stefan Richter as the bold, abrasive, proudly European finalist from Top Chef Season 5. Stefan, 37, runs Stefan's Catering and was the previous Excecutive Chef at Celestino Drago. LA Farm was closed for much needed renovations throughout July and will reopen on August 6th as Stefan's new Santa Monica restaurant, Stefan's at LA Farm.

When I received an invite to the pre-opening/open house this past weekend, I leapt at the chance! Stefan is my favorite Top Chef contestant of all time and I truly believed he got robbed of the Top Chef title. To see him making good use of and running with his 15 minutes of fame is incredible.

The new space is amazing -- comfortable yet contemporary, chic yet unpretentious. If the tray-passed appetizers are any indication of what to expect from Stefan's, I cannot wait to try the incredible tapas style small plates that will grace it's menu.

Most notable was the Thai crab bisque. I've never tasted anything more perfect -- velvety smooth and incredibly flavorful. The Kumamoto oysters with absinthe (yes absinthe!) were outstanding -- unbelievably fresh!

On a personal note, Jamie Lauren and Leah Cohen were in the house (also contestants from Top Chef Season 5). I also must say that Stefan is surprisingly friendly and approachable.

Stefan's at LA Farm is located at 3000 West Olympic Blvd in the city of Santa Monica.

Monday, July 06, 2009

In Which I Eat Montreal

If I could only describe Montréal in a few words, I’d use the words refined, conscientious, and vibrant.

The food in Montreal is as meticulous as I’ve ever had – painstakingly delicious. Almost every meal was a true work of art offered in reasonable portions. The way of life in Montreal is such that it’s normal to linger for hours over wine or coffee. Food is savored, not devoured. Dining is a true social event.

On my surprisingly pleasant flight to Montreal, I read Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel, in which she describes how balance, listening to your food voice instead of food noise, and truly understanding yourself lends itself to becoming svelte. One of her “rules” is “Taste Everything, Eat nothing”. Strangely enough I’ve been doing this most of my life . I think I learned this from my mom, who nibbles on everything and rarely cleans her plate. In many American restaurants, portions for one person can feed a family of four. And we eat it. All of it. I digress – apologies. I believe that this is how the people of Montreal eat (grazing and savoring) and I appreciate it!

What I liked most about dining in Montreal is a little thing called “table d’hote” – a pre fixe menu ranging from 20+ to 60+ dollars. It includes an entrée (appetizer), main course, dessert, and coffee. For an extra two or three bucks you can upgrade your entrée to something even more spectacular. For example for $3 more I was able to have Gaspacho, purée d’avocat, crevettes et sauce cocktail (Shrimp served with cocktail sauce, gazpacho and avocado purée) as my entrée (appetizer) rather than soup or salad.

What's more, establishments without a liquor license allow you to bring in your own wine with no corkage fee (BYOW). It was cool to just be able to grab a reasonably priced bottle of Bordeaux to accompany your meal and not have to deal with ridiculous markups. So basically, dining was easier on the wallet than usual.

I only was able to capture a few pics of my meals because many times by the time I thought to take a pic, I had eaten half of it.

While it’s all still semi-fresh in my mind, here are the restaurants in which I recall dining:

Premiere Moisson -- my favorite bakery. Croissants to die for!

S Le Restaurant at Le Saint Sulpice Hotel in Old Montreal. On the terrace, in the most beautiful garden setting, lunch was magnificently served. I had the Pan seared halibut, sauce vierge, smashed olive oil potatoes and red pepper coulis as my main.

Vizizza near the Jean-Talon Market: Most memorable was the Insalata Caprese – the freshest tomatoes and basil and mozza, and just a hint of butter mixed in with the olive oil that was drizzled upon it.

Manzo Pizzeria in La Salle, Quebec. Flat out the best pizza of my life! Perfect crust, perfect toppings, and a tuna salad to die for.

Suite 701 in Old Montreal. Excellent Plateau de fruits de mer: Crabe royal, huîtres, crevettes, queue de homard, saumon fume (King crab, oysters, shrimp, Québec lobster tail, smoked salmon) and a remarkable and reasonably priced cheese plate with an assortment of local cheeses from Quebec.

Bonaparte in Old Montreal. The Lobster stew was ridiculous! Pictured: Lobster stew flavored with vanilla, served with spinach fondue

La Raclette, a swiss restaurant in Plateau Montreal where I feasted on fresh salmon in a mustard sauce. I should have tried the fondue, in hindsight.

Byblos Le Petit Café. Excellent Persian Food! Fresh feta cheese with herbs and olives, an eggplant salad with a sprinkling of paprika (not pictured), and a croissant with seasonal jam for breakfast.

Just Noodles, where I had the most delicious bowl of noodle soup with shrimp and veggies for about 8 bucks.

I also enjoyed visiting Olive & Olive (which is very similar to We Olive here in the US) and David’s Tea, a contemporary tea shop with the most friendly and helpful staff.

And finally, the outdoor markets that I loved: Jean-Talon and Atwater --The most beautiful produce, cheese, meats, and seafood. I loved the wild strawberries and the fresh trout salad (think tuna salad but with trout). The French buy in season and plan meals around seasonal produce. It was inspiring.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Going Raw: 118 Degrees in Costa Mesa

I'm going raw! Ok well, not quite, but occasionally I love a totally raw meal. There is something to be said for guilt-free, delicious food. A few months ago I had the pleasure of dining at 118 Degrees in Costa Mesa. It's a relatively small bistro in a strip mall right off of Bristol near South Coast Plaza. All of the dishes are living and organic and prepared beautifully.

The food was incredibly delicious. It was pretty crowded so the service was understandably very slow but was excellent when it was received. I had a million silly questions and the server didn't mind answering all them and going into great detail about how things were prepared. Overall: Vibrant, artful, and surprisingly outstanding raw food, unique juices and cocktails, and a great selection of organic wines.

I started with the Thai Spring Rolls: Coconut Sesame Wraps filled with Julienne Squash, Red Bell Pepper, Carrots, Avocado and Enoki Mushrooms with a Spicy Dipping Sauce.

And for my entree, a Trio of Enchiladas served with Green Guacamole and Pine Nut Sour Cream.

My favorite was the wine of course; an 05 organic Pinot Noir from Pedroncelli of the Russian River Valley.

I'm dying to try Brunch!

Spring is in the Air: This Year's Container Gardens

Earlier this winter, Container Gardening by Stephanie Donaldson arrived, a book I wishlisted on BookMooch.com. It's a huge collection of 150 of really simple but fabulous container gardens.

My parents, apparently growing busier and busier with every year, asked me to start seeds for them this year and provided me with a Jiffy Seed Starter Greenhouse with 72 plugs.
I've never done this before, as I usually start my own seeds directly in containers. I'm an apartment dweller and my space is extremely limited. Furthermore, the one time I planted my parent's entire garden it was a direct sow. So...this is going to be different and interesting.

Although I've decided on three definite container gardens, I'm starting my seeds along with my parents seeds in the Jiffy. Most of my seeds all arrived a few weeks ago, but I just planted this past weekend. Most are from Burpees and some are from containerseeds.com.

Here's what I've got going:

Salad Bowl Garden: tumbler tomato, chives, little gem lettuce, salad bowl lettuce, cilantro plants (was supposed to be parsley but im not a fan of it)

Fruit and Flowers Garden: Alpine strawberry plants, bright red petunias, helichrysum petiolare (variegatium)

Herb Garden: Sage, rosemary, mint tarragon, lemon thyme, dill, creeping thyme, and basil.

My parents gave me red pepper, dill, and basil. I'm also planting some wild flowers I picked up at a little boutique in the great white north years ago, hoping they've not gone bad.

Alrighty -- that's it for now. I'll post pics once they've sprouted (otherwise we're just looking at soil).