kiramisu

January 21st, 2015 by cleverfoodie

Dine LA January 2015

Dine LA 2015

 

 

Um, HELLO!!!!

It’s my absolute FAVORITE food time of year in Los Angeles. Winter Dine LA (which IMHO is superior to the summer version). There are more participants, more menu offerings and more options per course. Or at least that’s how it seems to me. I haven’t done any actual numerical research. But I do generally find that I am much happier with my January dining choices (and yes, there are many vendors who only participate in Winter).

 

Below are my top picks for this go-round, including a peak of my first dinner, from last night at Upper West.

 

Upper West 

3 courses (including dessert!)/ $40 dinner/Santa Monica

Could you be excited to eat the $20 lunch menu at Upper West during Dine LA? Sure. But you’d be missing out if you skipped DINNER!

I went last night, and am prepared to say confidently that THIS dinner tops my list of ALL the DINE LA meals I have had in the past 3 years. Yup. My boyfriend who was with me agrees that this was an exceptional meal! This is also a good time to remind you to do DINE LA with a friend or significant other. Aside from the fact that food is a great bonding experience, it also lets you pick more options per course if you’re a good food sharer—so you can try more things! See, totally practical.

 

Andy at Dine LA

 

 

pork

 

What do you need to get here? Hands down the Coffee Crusted Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin. This is one of the top meat dishes I’ve ever had. In my life! I was completely taken by surprise–this is definitely the ‘dark horse’ candidate that came up and bit me from behind (and I’m glad that it did!). We also shared the Short Rib, which is would certainly eat again. It’s just that the pork, with the apple and jalepeno chutney and the goat cheese potatoes (which were not recognizable as anything but a magical pile of some secret side dish from another dimension) is the perfect flavor combo. Seriously. You NEED this.

We also had the lamb crepes (good, but  a little too gamey tasting on the lamb) the burrata salad (solid!), and shared the carrot cake ice cream sandwich (do yourself a favor and get this one!) and the bread pudding (one of my top 3 bread puddings ever). All around, great choices for each course, and one of the most satisfying meals I’ve ever had (in case you didn’t get that before). The service was superb, and I can’t wait to go back. I think Upper West may now officially have taken the place of Baco Mercat as my current favorite spot in Los Angeles. Apologies for the poor photo quality, but it was kinda dark in there and I since I’ve just scooped Andy up, I don’t want to freak him out too badly yet by making him light my foodie shoots with his phone flashlight. That will have to wait til at least Dine LA date #2.

upper west apps
bread pudding
carrot cake

 

I also learned while I was there that they have Happy Hour daily, and all night on Mondays! Plus a prix fix menu option every Weds night $36 for 3 courses. Well worth it!

 

Faith and Flower (Modern California)

3 Courses (including dessert)/$25 lunch/$50 dinner/Downtown

After being blown away at the opening of Terrine LA , I can’t WAIT to finally get over to Faith & Flower  (same owners).  And for those on a more modest budget the $25 lunch offering (also 3 courses) looks very promising as well. If you can get over there for lunch (or ‘mysteriously disappear’ from work for a ‘work lunch’) I would highly recommend this place. Haven’t been yet, but have heard nothing but amazing reviews from all my favorite foodie friends.

 

Da Pasquale Trattoria (Italian)

3 Courses (including dessert)/$30 dinner/Beverly Hills

I’ve been here before and  I would gladly go again! The most authentic Italian food (and atmosphere) I’ve experienced outside of Italy! Make sure you make a reservation! Once they are seated for the evening (as per usual in Italy) you are expected to enjoy your evening, and they don’t turn tables over much. Once you’re there for dinner, you’re free to stay for the evening and enjoy the food and conversation. Well worth it! Add a glass of their Pinot Noir or a Tuscan Red for about $10.

 

 Mud Hen Tavern (American)

3 Courses (including desser)/$25 lunch/$30 dinner/Hollywood

Though I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of Susan Feniger’s STREET, the offerings at Mud Hen Tavern are more up my alley (and more diverse as far as options). Might have to go for lunch AND dinner so I can sample the lemon poppyseed pancakes AND Wood Roasted Pork with Biscuit.

 

Badmaash Indian Gastropub (Indian/Mexican Fusion)

3 Courses (including dessert)/$30 dinner/Downtown

This spot has been on my list for a while. While their Tikka Masala Tacos are not currently on the menu (they have been swapped out for Tikka Masala Poutine—everyone is doing poutine now, apparently)—but I love Indian food, and I still want eat here anyways.

Go forth and tell me what is GOOD people. I’m counting on you to help me cover all these spots (and others that I have yet to cross off my list!)

 

 

 

 

October 15th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream : Grand Central Market

 

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This is a post to honor my dear friend (and fellow ice cream lover!) Victoria–who just moved to Montreal a few months ago for an awesome new Producing job in Animation.

 

The last time we hung out while she was still in LA, we went to McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. Holy Cow. It was amazing.

 

 

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For one thing, I had never been to Grand Central Market in Downtown LA before…WHERE HAVE I BEEN???!!!!

This place is amazing! Feels a lot more like an outdoor market in Seattle or San Francisco. Very fun, and lots of variety. I’d seen random posts and videos by other foodie friends about McConnell’s the previous week, and so Vicky and I decided to go check it out before she left town.

 

The folks who work there are patient and let you taste everything (we did, I think, taste everything…) And this is what I ended up with…

 

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That is 2 scoops of CHURRO ice cream, one scoop of Sweet Cream and one scoop of Marionberry with Lemon. Um, yes. That is correct. You need to go here and try this -ish out! Though the ‘double scoop’ pictured here is really 4 SCOOPS ( each full ‘scoop’ is 2 scoops). And they make their ice cream with like 800% butterfat or some other such nonsense, so it’s quite filling. Next time I will get the flight which is 3 ‘half scoops’ (ie: slightly smaller than regular full scoops) instead.

 

 

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All the flavors were great, but the carmely-chunky-chewy Churro ice cream was definitely my favorite.

 

We had a lovely visit, and I’m sad to say my friend is now living somewhere where the outside world probably feels a lot like the inside of one of these scoops of Churro ice cream. Come back to LA soon Vicky!!!

 

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August 27th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

Open Sesame!

Okay, okay….it’s a bit delayed (again!)—but here is my review for the one spot I managed to hit for DINE LA a couple of weeks ago.

 

Open Sesame is a lovely spot in the Melrose neighborhood, and lots of neighborhood street parking before 6pm! The portions were huge, the spices – divine, and the ambiance is so SO lovely!

I certainly recommend it if it’s on Dine LA the next round.

 

For more looks at the food and my thoughts, check out my Tastemade Video review!

 

 

July 20th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

Taste on Melrose: or TASTY on Melrose?!

DineLA_Taste

Another great dining experience from my DINE LA excursions last July. Taste on Melrose.

 

Truly a delightful meal with so many flavors and textures! The mac and cheese was ok. But the lamb burger with pickled onion and the lemon pot de creme with blueberry compote were EXTRAORDINARY!

I went to catch up with my dear friend Susie (the non-compliant vegan) and she said the seared Ahi sandwich was also lovely!

Sadly, noneof those options are available this time around – BUT for $20 this spot gives you more choices in that you get 2 of 3 courses (appetizer, main and/or dessert). For dinner, pay $35, get additional options per course and try one of each of the 3 courses! Not too shabby! Parking can be ugly, but hit lunch during the week and it’s not so bad. Make sure you look at street cleaning signs though, lots of parking in the area is limited to only an hour or so!

The good thing about the same foods not being available? All NEW foods to try! WIN!

 

And go with a friend! A good excuse to try new foods and catch up! Here’s one of my favorite people Sues, modeling her peach poundcake. Delicious!

SuesDINELA

 

 

 

 

July 18th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

Da Pasquale Trattoria : A Dine LA All Time Fave!

DaPasquale

 

 

Da Pasquale Trattoria is one of my favorite Dine LA experiences yet! I hit the dinner special (only $25 for 3 courses!) last July and was SO glad I did. I must admit, I had more than a little apprehension going to an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills. But the reviews were so great, they peaked my curiosity.

The food, atmosphere and staff are the most authentically Italian that I have experienced outside of Italy. One of the few places outside of Europe where, if you take less than 2 hours for dinner, the staff might think that you dislike the food/service. The entire place is SO welcoming and the food is exquisite! And the glass of Tuscan red I had (a simple house favorite) was one of the best I have ever tasted. And I HAD to snap a picture of the specials that were hand written by out waitress. AH! A simple bit of art. I love looking at handwriting samples. Especially when the words relate to food!

Truly outstanding dining experience! Go and relax with a friend–and prepare to experience what REAL dining was always meant to be! Since they let you take your time, they don’t have as many dinner openings as other places that turn their tables over quickly. So make a reservation ahead of time and you’ll be set! We made a reservation same day and had no problem!

July 15th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

DINE LA Summer 2014

I am so excited! It’s DINE LA, the summer edition from July 14-27, 2014 .

 

Dine LA Summer 2014

 

Below are my ‘hit lists’ for lunch and dinner. These are new-to-me restaurants that I have not been to before, where the YELP reviews are good (4 stars or higher), and they have multiple dish choices per course (and multiple courses!)

 

 

LUNCH

Badmaash Indian Gastropub/ Downtown

I am obsessed with Indian food right now! The luxurious spices and flavors?! What a great time to try out a new place. And any Indian spot with a lunch special for Dine LA? Sign me up!

$15/2 courses

$18/3 courses

 

Vinoteque on Melrose/Melrose

Now THESE menu choices look fancy! I love variety and artisanal food pairings. Drool.

$20/3 small bite courses

 

La Vecchia Cucina/Santa Monica

Ooooh! Lots of options at this Italian restaurant! Makes up for only being 2 courses.

$20/2 courses

 

Ciboteca/ Santa Monica

Italian Panini Sandwiches, a salad, dessert and a drink? Bellissima!

$15/ 3 courses and non-alcoholic drink included!

 

Fundamental LA/Westwood

This was on my lunch hit-list last year and I didn’t get to try it out. Definitely want to taste their sandwich/salad, side and dessert this time around!

$15/3 courses and a non-alcoholic drink included!

 

Open Sesame Grill/Beverly

My friend Tina has recommended this spot a couple of times. Dine LA might be the perfect time to hit up this middle eastern grill.

$15/2 courses

 

Pono Burger/Santa Monica

Have been hearing GREAT things about Pono Burger over the past few weeks! In my continued quest to find the best burger in town, I think I might have to try this out!

$15/2 courses OR go for DINNER and get 4 courses for $25 including a speciality milkshake!

 

 Faith and Flower/Downtown

Lemongrass Pot De Creme? Yes, please! This lunch spot doesn’t have as many options per course, but I can’t get past this dessert! Gotta try it!

$25/3 courses

 

DINNER

The Must/Downtown

Not necessarily the most offerings per course, but the choices they do have look thoughtful and tasty!

$25/3 courses

 

Upper West/Santa Monica

I will be having the carrot cake ice cream sandwich (butterscotch carrot cake with cream cheese ice cream?! Shut up!)…possibly for all 3 courses, if they’ll let me.

$35/3 courses

 

Cleo/Hollywood

This Mediterranean spot looks delicious and includes a variety of options (including delectable desserts!).

$35/3 courses

 

Osteria Mamma/Melrose

Heather has been telling me for weeks that this is her favorite Italian place in LA. Can’t wait to try it! I think I’ll go for dinner since there are more options in each course, and dinner includes dessert (one extra course for $10)!

$35/3 courses

 

Vinoteque on Melrose/Melrose

Lamb meat balls with marinara and goat cheese? Just one possibility during your 5 course small plates meal!

$35/5 small plate courses

 

Since I’ve done such a TERRIBLE job of tracking my Dine LA adventures the last 2 years (at least as far as posting pictures and reviews of the things I actually ATE), I will be posting photos and brief entries over the next 2 weeks of places I’ve visited in the past that were amazing, and that are currently available for Dine LA this time around.

 

Stay tuned!

 

 

July 2nd, 2014 by cleverfoodie

My New Favorite Spot in Town: Baco Mercat

It’s official. I have a new favorite restaurant! BACO MERCAT located in downtown LA.

 

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Normally, small plates places sort of irk me (because they are small plates!) but the food at Baco Mercat is SO exceptional, that I’m willing to overlook this fact.

My lovely friend Tina introduced me to Baco Mercat last week, and I enjoyed it SO much that I had to take my mom and our friend Deanna there for brunch when they came to visit over the weekend!

Here’s a Tastemade video featuring some of the awesome foods I ate with Tina the first time we were there:

 


 

And here’s a video highlighting some of the gorgeous brunch eats I got with Mom and Deanna:

 

Here are a few still photos! A few favorites included:

 

Grilled Green Tomato Salad

Bacon Gravy with Biscuits and a Fried Egg

Golden Beet Salad

Raspberry Tarragon Soda (made in house!)

Yogurt Based Panna Cotta

 

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June 30th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

Tastemade!!!

Yeah, yeah….I know. I have been slacking!

But for a good reason, I promise! I just closed my final weekend of Cold Tangerines the Play at the Freemont Centre Theatre in Pasadena. Hooray!

All that to say – I wanted to make this ‘revival’ post extra snappy. SO, I am going to introduce you to an amazing new app available on iPhones/ipads and now on Android! Tastemade is an awesome little video app that lets you make your own one minute Food Network type episodes at your favorite local eateries. Know what’s even better? It edits together FOR you!

Check out my most recent appisode at Anar Indian Restaurant in Hollywood!

They have a lunch special, daily (including weekends) from 11am to 3pm. AND free parking!!!

And they also have a special for dinner orders (dine in or take out) $10 off an order of $40 or more when you check in on YELP. Do it!

 

I expect to see some great appisodes in the coming weeks with Dine LA hitting soon!

 

May 20th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

Mini Kabob – Who Knew?!

So apparently I’m SUPER behind on this one. A tiny little whole in the wall that is literally a little converted house on the end of a street in Glendale. Was looking for a rad new spot to try with Mom while she was here visiting in town a couple of weeks ago (because all we do is EAT when she’s here!), and this is what we found!

Mini-Kabob is an amazing Middle-Eastern restaurant (seriously I think the best hummus and garlic spread I’ve ever had!) run by a husband and wife. Delicious, savory meats, delicious rice (mom and I are STILL trying to figure out what they season/cook their rice with), scalded tomatoes, pear soda, fresh salads and so many other beautiful treats! I got the lula kabob plate (pictured here) which is ground beef. Amazing! It came with hummus, rice and tons of super thin flat breads.

Mini Kabob in Glendale

 

Definitely my new favorite Middle Eastern spot! The owners are so charming, knowledgeable and kind! They easily picked up conversations with everyone in the restaurant (2 tables inside and 2 outside) and with the post man who came by for a visit.

Highly recommended!

 

May 11th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

BAM! It’s the Most Magical Banana Cream Pie EVER!

 

 

Normally, it’s the heavy whipping cream that’s tough to get a hold of in the days leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, because of all the desserts people make. I did have to go to 2 different Ralph’s this week to get my heavy whipping cream, BUT surprisingly, I had a much harder time finding ripe bananas. Yes. Ripe bananas. Seriously?

And I’m not talking super-brown-ready-to-make-banana-bread-ripe. I mean any bananas that were not dark green all the way through.

I was just about to give up the pie and make my famous sugar cookies instead. My last attempt (after 4 other stores) was Whole Paycheck where I found a mountain of perfectly ripe bananas (still firm, no spots, with maybe a light touch of green at the very top).

HALLELUJAH!

So here’s the recipe. In case you need a good idea for tomorrow. Or, um…Actually not for tomorrow. It has to chill overnight. Which is the reason I went out to 5 different stores at 10 pm trying tot find 3 decent bananas.

Anyway…

The Most Magical Banana Cream Pie EVER (with peanut butter cookie crust!)

 

I freaked out a little when my mom sent me this recipe too. Don’t worry, the subsections of ingredients are just to help remind you what goes where and when. It’s much easier than it looks. I promise.

 

For the crust

1/2 pound peanut butter sandwich cookies, coarsely crumbled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 Tablespoons butter, melted.

For the Filling -
Whisk together:
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon dark rum, optional

Combine (separately)
1 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon all-purpose four
pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk

Off Heat, Add:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Assemble pie with:
3 ripe, firm bananas, quartered.

 

Start by coating a 9 inch tart pan or glass pie plate nonstick spray.

Then, pulverize the peanut butter sandwich cookies. I like to use Nutter Butters because they’re easy to find, and the tray comes split in half. Since the full box is 1 pound, you dump out one perfectly subdivided half of the tray and you’re good to go!

 

PBCookies

 

The original recipe recommends crushing them in a food processor, but I live in a studio apartment and I don’t have all the different kitchen gadgets, right now, that I will when I have a nice 3 bedroom house in Larchmont.

So, I just put the cookies in a plastic bag, put the bag on a cutting board and went to town with my meat hammer. It worked just fine. Make sure you DO put a cutting board between your table/counter and the hammer though. Otherwise you might not be getting your deposit back when you move out of YOUR studio apartment.

 

precrushedcookiesjpg

 

 

Once the cookies are pretty well mashed, pour the crumbles into a small bowl. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and pour it over the top. Then mix together. (Or pour the butter into the food processor with the crumbs and let it do the work for you–if you’re fancy like that).

 

ButterCrumbs

 

 

Pour the cookie mixture into your pie plate.and gently press the crumbs out to the edges. It’s easiest to start in the center. As you flatten the pile of crumbs with your palm, they will naturally push out and crawl up the sides of the dish to give you a nice even crust.

 

CrustinDish
CrustFinished

 

Next, gently whisk the eggs and optional rum for the filling in a small bowl.

 

EggMix

 

Combine sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt in a saucepan, whisking to break up lumps.  Gradually add milk and whisk until smooth. I found you kinda have to stand over this mixture and stir it continually, or the cornstarch clumps together.

 

SugarMix
CustardMix

 

Cook over medium heat until thickened, about 8 minutes.

Temper some of the hot custard into the egg mixture, by adding a few large spoonfuls of the hot custard into the dish of egg. Mix that together. This helps warm up the eggs, so that they mix more easily into the rest of the custard. Otherwise, the egg cook too quickly and ‘flower’ in your custard like egg drop soup. That is not what we are going for here kids.

 

CustardIntoEgg

 

 

Once you’ve tempered the egg, pour the egg mixture into the custard pan and whisk together. Continue to cook until thick ad bubbly, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add 2 Tbsp butter and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. (Sorry there aren’t photos of this part, but you have to do the egg tempering and mixing in really quickly! I didn’t have time to take pictures).

 

CustardDone

 

This is the fun part! It makes me feel like Kerri Russell in “The Waitress.” Except I’m not pregnant or married or sleeping with my gynecologist. I guess it’s just the pictures of the pies .

Peel and quarter the bananas. Cut them in half length wise, and then in half the other way.

SliceBanana

 

Then place the banana spears cut side down over the crust.

 

BananaInCrust

 

 

Give the custard one final swirl with your whisk and then pour it over the top of the bananas. Smooth out the top with a spatula so it looks pretty :)

 

FullPie

 

Loosely cover it with plastic wrap and then chill in the fridge over night (let it cool down a little before you cover it, if you have time). Mom always serves this with freshly whipped cream – and that’s exactly what I’m going to do tomorrow after dinner! Btw, if you haven’t whipped your own cream, you haven’t LIVED.

 

Have a safe and delicious Thanksgiving everyone! I wanna see pictures!