kiramisu

July 20th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

Taste on Melrose: or TASTY on Melrose?!

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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!

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July 18th, 2014 by cleverfoodie

Da Pasquale Trattoria : A Dine LA All Time Fave!

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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.

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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

 

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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 :)

 

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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!

February 23rd, 2014 by cleverfoodie

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.

 

xiomaradessert
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 cleverfoodie

Graze : My Favorite Foodie Subscription so Far!

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

graze front

 

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
graze turn over
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 cleverfoodie

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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