kiramisu

February 23rd, 2014 by kira2070

Xiomara : Dine LA and Foodie Reunion

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to grab lunch with the lovely Lindsay – to celebrate two very important events: her birthday (yay!) and DineLA.

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We’d been talking about doing a DineLA outing together for ages – so I was glad we finally locked a date down this past January. Originally, we were looking at little fork  and Vinoteque on Melrose , but sadly, on the way there, we realized that neither had lunch during the week (weird! usually it’s that places are closed for lunch on weekends for DineLA). We were a tiny bit disappointed, because we’d been DROOLING over these menus, but out of resourcefulness and a sense of hunger, we found another great DineLA option, Xiomara .

 

The presentation of the food was SO lovely. Overall, I’d say I give the food 4 out of 5 stars. BUT the appetizer and dessert get the full 5 stars. Here’s a look at what we ate!

 

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Sweet Potato Croquettes with Sweet Chili Sauce and Mushroom and Cheese Crostinis  5/5

These were both amazing! I couldn’t get over how perfect the bread was. It was simple–soft, but lightly grilled and chewy around the edges in the best possible way. And they weren’t skimpy with the mushrooms. Nice mushroom mix too–very flavorful!

 

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Risotto  3.5/5

This was ok. Clearly not blown away because I don’t remember it in detail like the appetizer and dessert, but still satisfactory. It’s just that risotto has to REALLY impress me to be impressive. And any time they melt a slice of cheese on top instead of grating it  I think it looks sloppy/cheap, even if it doesn’t taste that way.

 

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Cuban Pulled Pork Sandwich and Fries  3.5/5

This was decent. A solid sandwich, but again, it takes a LOT for a sandwich to get more than 3.5 out of 5 from me. It really has to melt my face off. I would eat this again, but probably try a cuban pulled pork sandwich from somewhere else first. Just for variety.

 

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Tres Leches Cake and Candied Praline Ice Cream 5/5
I would seriously go back to Xiomara just for this. Perfectly soaked cake. Still firm (I think they must have dipped it just before serving) not at all soggy. And soaked in coffee as well as the tres leches- which was a nice blend, and drizzled with a little bit of chocolate sauce on top. Almost a little tiramisu-ish (which is always a good thing for me!). The sponge cake oozed saunce every time we cut into it with our spoons and the colors on the plate (and smell) were lovely!
Overall, a great DineLA success!  I LOVE trying new foods with good friends. Thanks, Lindsay for driving down to LA from Azusa to go on a foodie adventure with me!!!

 

February 11th, 2014 by kira2070

Graze : My Favorite Foodie Subscription so Far!

Just got my second GRAZE box this week and I’m totally in love!

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4 different snacks in every box, delivered twice a month and only $6 per box including shipping! Are you kidding me? It’s kind of like the foodie version of birchbox, except with MORE stuff in it. Each snack pod is probably about a half a cup. The perfect little size to toss in your purse before you head out the door.

And unlike Nature Box and other snack packs I’ve looked at, there is a larger variety of snacks and I like the way you can rate them better (either “never send me this”, “to try,” “like,” or “love”). And the salty snacks are not too salty (which I’ve found is often the problem I have with other snack subscriptions). Though now that you can choose your snacks, I do like Nature Box better… The rating system is the biggest selling point for me since I have weird food restrictions. Most subscriptions ask if you have a gluten, nut or similar allergy. I can eat all nuts, but I don’t eat common trail mix add ins like raisins, cherries or chocolate. With Graze, I can specifically exclude snacks that only have some/all of these no-nos. I like that. Maybe it’s because I like to feel like I’m in control. I know, I know…I’m a first born, what do you want?

The boxes looked like this:

Box #1:

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graze enjoy
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Box #2
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Each box so far has had 2 salty snacks and 2 savory ones. I haven’t had any that I hated. One or two that I liked ok but was like “meh”. And a couple (like the banoffee pie!!!!) which I LOVED.
banoffee pie
Use my friend code  KIRAS86DP  and get your first and fifth box FREE! And I get a dollar off my next box too! Win-win. Snacks for everyone!

 

January 27th, 2014 by kira2070

Al Bacio Ristorante : Exclusive Cooking Class

I have a lot of foodie friend in Los Angeles. My favorite kind of friends :)

Amongst the most adventurous, and certainly THE MOST avid food blogger I know is Amy (backyardbite.com).

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Many of the most exclusive and exciting food experiences I’ve been a part of the last 4 years have been connected to Amy somehow (or she ends up being there!).

About a week ago, Amy invited me to attend the very first cooking class at Al Bacio in West Hollywood. She had attended the opening dinner in December, and the chef, Christian Simionato, had personally invited her (and a few honored guests!) to attend.

This morning, we arrived at 11am, at the storefront in West Hollywood. We were met by fresh shots of espresso, and a group of new friends (the other half of the class, friends of one of the servers at Al Bacio – who were so awesome!). From there, we began a 4 hour demonstration and dining extravaganza!

 

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I know you’re way more interested in seeing pictures than reading about my experience, so I’ll keep it short!

Here’s a list of our menu for the day to help guide you through all the drool worthy pictures!

 

Appetizer:

Al Bacio Salad: octopus, potato, olives, shaved carrots, tomatoes, fennel, lemon and olive oil

 

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We started with a WHOLE raw octopus…
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I particularly like Chef Christian’s explanation (video here!) of how they used to tenderize octopus in the olden days back in Italy :)

And after cleaning it, Chef Christian showed us how to dip the octopus repeatedly into the hot water before letting him rest/cook in there for a while (dip until the tentacles start to curl up!).
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I’d had squid before (mostly fried a la calamari) but NEVER just cooked with the tentacles still showing! Chef Christian offered us chunks of the cooked octopus to try before he added it to the salad.

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Needless to say I was a bit nervous!

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This big piece was a little much for me all in one bite! But when I sliced the octopus pieces in my salad into smaller bits, I found that I actually enjoyed it!

 

 

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Pasta Course:

Hand made tagliatelle pasta with veal bolognese sauce

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After making the pasta from scratch (with freshly imported whole grain semolina flour!), we moved onto the sauce!

 

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While we were cooking the pasta dish, the assistant chef offered us some Prosecco to enjoy – with some fresh parmesan cheese! A nice ‘break’ to stop and relax while things are simmering in the kitchen!

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Kira Cheese Prosecco

 

 

Dessert: Christian’s Grandmother’s recipe!

A baked apple tart, with blood orange sauce and freshly made sweet cream gelato.

 

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After all the food was prepared, Chef Christian and his staff ushered us over to the covered front patio to eat! They told us there was a special surprise!

We sat down and one of the partners brought out fresh mozzarella flown in from Italy (the day before!).

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I’ve had a lot of cheese in my time and this stuff was truly OUTSTANDING. Mind blowing. I’m serious people. We all had at least 2 balls of it with the fresh bread at the table.

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Classes will be held once per month starting in March! They are trying to keep the classes to a conveniently small size so everyone can participate in the preparation, and because the kitchen is very cozy! The staff work 14 hour days, 6 days a week – so they run the classes on Sunday – their day off! Clearly, these people love food!

 

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Check the website for upcoming classes in the next few months. I’m sure they’ll fill up fast! Or stop by for lunch! They just started a new special last week! $12 chef’s special ‘express lunch’ for those in the area who “Only have an hour lunch break – we turn around dishes in less than 10 minutes,” said the Chef!

Al Bacio also has a private dining area for parties up to 40 people, and Chef Christian personally coordinates the menu options for each event!

HUGE thanks to Chef Christian Simionato and his amazing staff! Can’t wait to eat at Al Bacio again, SOON!

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January 16th, 2014 by kira2070

Ordering “Off the Menu” in Los Angeles

It’s almost my favorite Foodie Time of Year!

Not Thanksgiving (although that is a close second), it’s DINE LA!!!!!!

To prepare for the occasion, the folks at Discover Los Angeles, have put together a fantastic list of fun ‘secret’ items you can order from local eateries around town.

 

 

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Check em out! And while you’re visiting their page on Ordering Off the Menu, take a preliminary gander at the prix-fixe menus for Dine LA that are already posted! This year, in addition to the special prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus, there is also an $85 tasting menu option at some locations. How exciting!!!!

Stay tuned for my personal restaurant picks! I promise to be better about posting the results this year…I know…the ones from LAST Dine LA are still on my phone…Maybe I’ll upload them this weekend to prep for the upcoming festivities!

Ciao!

January 8th, 2014 by kira2070

Fresh Produce Delivered in a Box!

Fun surprise! I got home last night, and my box had already been delivered! Wahoo!

One thing that turned me onto the idea of Farm Fresh to You in the first place, is that you can substitute items after looking at what is scheduled to come in your box that week. And since I didn’t have a chance to call and request specific substitutions for the kale (and something else I can’t remember) they just doubled up on other items that were on my ‘ok’ list, that were scheduled to be in the box!

This is what I got:

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1 butternut squash

4 d’anjou pears

6 fuji apples

2 pounds of french fingerling potatoes

2 bunches of carrots

2 bunches of radishes

1 pound of satsuma mandarin oranges

 

Can’t WAIT to taste them all! Though I did just buy a big bag of potatoes at Trader’s Joe’s over the weekend. Maybe time for some potato soup? And to get those produce preserving bags that Larry was telling me about last week.

If you’d like to try Farm Fresh to You, go to their website here and enter code 6164 and my name (Kira Smithson) and you get $10 off your first box!!!

Stay tuned!

January 8th, 2014 by kira2070

Farm Fresh to You : My First Subscription Box

Over the holidays, I got to looking at unique gift ideas (especially food related ideas) for family members. Now that we’re all  ’grown up,’ no one wants a Barbie doll or G.I. Joe anymore. And it can be hard to find thoughtful, useful and desirable gifts for family members anyhow!

While searching online, I stumbled upon something I found particularly interesting.

Subscription boxes.

Most are monthly, some are weekly, or as often/rarely as you like. Most include shipping (big win!) and they come in a variety of price ranges from $3.66 each to upwards of $75!   I  loved the idea of subscription boxes because it extends the gift beyond the Christmas season – and can be personalized based on a person’s interests (food, clothing, beauty and health, etc). And who DOESN’T like getting special treats in the mail?! Heck, sometimes you wanna order something off of Amazon Prime just so there will be something besides junk mail when you go to your mailbox.

For example, I ordered Skoskbox for my sister. She lived in Korea for a while teaching English, and loves weird Asian candies, sweets and snack foods. Shokshbox delivers treats from Japan to your doorstep – many of which are similar to other Korean and Asian style treats. Score!

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While I was shopping (not joking!) a nice young man came to my front door selling Farm Fresh to You produce subscriptions. As you know from previous posts, I’m an AVID farmer’s market fan, and I’d heard of these home delivery services before, but figured they’d be too expensive for me. So when the nice guy at my door said they had boxes for as little as $20 per delivery, I was intrigued, and signed myself up!

 

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I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of my very first box which should be delivered while I sleep tonight (like Santa coming at Christmas! Only he brings me butternut squash instead of chocolate and lifesavers in a cardboard book shape).  Can’t wait to update on the contents and quality of these products. AND my lovely colleagues at Blu Fable got me a Ninja blender set for Christmas (I KNOW! I can’t wait!)—so I’m hoping to try out a new soup recipe with whatever goodies come in my box tonight. If you want to try Farm Fresh to You check out their webpage and enter code 6164 and my name, to get $10 off your first delivery box!

We’ll see what Santa (I mean Farm Fresh to You) brings!!!

November 4th, 2013 by kira2070

Battle for the Best (Non-Oat or Barley) Hot Breakfast Cereal!

Since I had to give up oats and barley a few years ago due to dietary issues (it’s a long story – but the short version is -it was WELL worth it to cut a few things out!) I seem to find myself a little sad an mopey when it starts to get cold outside, (and by cold in Los Angeles, we mean below 60 deg F).

 

I used to LOVE oatmeal and multi-grain cereals of all kinds. But now, I can’t do multi-grain because those ‘grains’ inevitably involve both oats and barley. Sure there is cream of wheat..and there are cheddar grits (OH cheddar grits!), but when you want something sweet and hearty – there aren’t too many options outside of oatmeal.

 

At least I didn’t THINK there were until a few months ago. In recent outings, I’ve been searching menus for alternate hot cereal options. A few weeks ago, I went with my mom to try out the Blue Daisy Cafe . There I found my first bit of excitement in this category for a while! Hot rice porridge with rose syrup and sliced almonds. I’ve only had it once and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since (since September!!!).

 

Blue Daisy Cafe - Rice Porridge with Rose Syrup

 

Then I went to brunch with a couple of good friends at Cafe Verona and found ANOTHER delicious option! Creme di Arose Dolce – a delightful hot porridge type cereal made of rice and coconut meal! It’s traditionally topped with raisins and cinnamon, but since I can’t eat raisins (I know, I know. You’re rolling your eyes.) they kindly topped it with bananas, cinnamon and whipped cream instead. Absolutely fantastic!

 

RIce Cereal

They also have a sweet breakfast polenta option that I’ll have to try next time. For the record, my friend Mark had the eggs benedict and he’s been searching for the best benedict in town, and he said Cafe Verona’s version ranks right up there with his other top choice! And the breakfast potatoes that came with it? Just… stop.

Overall, I have a lot more hope this fall for tasty non-oat-or-barley-hot-cereals.

If you have any pointers or ideas – PLEASE Let me know. I’d love to have an ongoing tally of the best ones!

October 30th, 2013 by kira2070

Refrigeration is Important!

I must be getting older. Now I have to write myself a note and stick it to the bathroom mirror, reminding myself to put my leftovers in the fridge.

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September 27th, 2013 by kira2070

Congratulations MJ!

This week, I got to celebrate the launch of MirandaJackson.com with one of my oldest and dearest friends from college! So proud of Miss Miranda Grace, her hard work as an amazing Artistic Director and Stylist, and all her accomplishments! Not to mention the amazing photography of e.d. fields !

 

AND it was the first exhibition I’ve ever been to where I was featured in the art! How exciting!

 

 

 

Lots of momentum, auditions and opportunities in this season! Can’t wait to see what this next year holds!

It was great to have so many friends at the exhibit! Even got to catch up with the girls from my bible study at Syrup Desserts in Downtown LA after the event.

 

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Very convenient, as it was walking distance from the venue and we got to keep the same parking spots :)

 

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Special thanks to Suse, Heather, Abbey,  (and Tina!), Christian, Sarah Jane and Victoria for coming out to our show!!! Weeeeeee!!!!

September 18th, 2013 by kira2070

The Gloriousness of the Larchmont Farmer’s Market

 

A lovely afternoon lunch after yoga and the Farmer's Market

 

Though I’ve lived in my ‘new’ neighborhood, between LACMA and Larchmont Village for almost 2 years – I’m still finding my way around and discovering my favorite local eateries and things to do.

After a great deal of searching, I FINALLY found a new yoga place (YogaWorks – Guess who’s the duchess on YELP?!- WOOT!). When I started hitting yoga on Sunday morning, I learned there was a farmer’s market across the street from YogaWorks on Sunday mornings. Oh. My. Word. I’m addicted.

Why did I always think farmer’s markets were crazy expensive before?! Perhaps because I so rarely went to farmer’s markets before that I would always go overboard and overbuy. Or because I was in Santa Monica – and that market seems more expensive. Anywho – at REAL farmer’s markets, the produce is fresher and tastes more REAL than any fruit or veggies I’ve had in YEARS. That’s YEARS people.

And it’s actually cheaper than the normal grocery store! I’ve been going every week for the last 3 months or so (it’s on Larchmont Blvd between Beverly and 1st st, FYI) – and the most I’ve spent is $30 for 2 bags full of groceries I can barely carry.

Below are some lovely instagrammings of some of my BEST hauls, when I play the $20-$25 food game.

 

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Key factor in the success of said game? Only BRING 20 or 25 bucks WITH you. And if you go at the end of the market, the organic produce people on the end sell their fruit for $1 per pound. THAT is crazy. And I am so grateful! Asian pears, bartlett pears, citrus fruits of all kinds. Truly extraordinary. Plus I’d much rather pay a hard working farmer than the ‘man’ who owns Ralphs.

 

As you can see, I have a few regular items: some kind of veggies to go with the AMAZING hummus I buy from the Mediterranean dude, some fruit, and some tasty bread!

OH! And I tried the baklava from the hummus guy a couple of weeks ago. It’s the best I’ve ever had. REALLY. Paired with the new cold brewed coffee from Trader Joe’s and I was in heaven!

 

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I HIGHLY recommend a trip to the Larchmont Market. It’s not HUGE. But they have killer stuff and an awesome variety! Check it out!