Tomorrow: Cristina Ferrare Cooking Demo & Book Signing At Surfas

Looking for fun foodie plans tomorrow? Join Cristina Ferrare, chef and star of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) show “A Big Bowl of Love” as she prepares dishes from her new book Christina Ferrere’s Big Bowl of Love and signs copies of her book.

About the book: Cristina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love infuses Ferrare's homey collection of more than 150 recipes for everyday meals and celebrations. Each dish has been tested, enjoyed, and cherished by Cristina's family and friends.

About Cristina: Cristina is author of several New York Times bestsellers including, Okay, So I Don't Have a Headache, Cristina Ferrare's Family Entertainment, Cristina Ferrare Style and her fourth and most recent book, Realistically Ever After, a humorous view of finding happiness when he's not Prince Charming, you're not Snow White and life is not a fairy tale. The success of her books attest to her expertise in the areas of women's health, well being, culinary arts, stylistic design, as well as her great zest for life and her humor. She has just completed her fifth book, a new cookbook due out in May 2011, A Big Bowl of Love, which is also the inspiration for Cristina's cooking show on Oprah's OWN Network.

Want more info? Visit the event's official website. Or if you can't go, grab a copy of Cristina's book at Amazon.

8777 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 558-1458 ‎


Royal Wedding Viewing Party at Montage Beverly Hills

I'm not going to lie; part of me has considered pulling an all-nighter to watch the Royal Wedding. The big event definitely ranks -- at least to me -- as one of those "I remember where I was..." lifetime moments, but reminiscing about being on my couch at 1 a.m. Friday in pajamas doesn't scream "glam." Not to mention I'd fall dead asleep at work later that day.

That said, when I think about where I'd like to watch "Big Willie" and "Waity Katie" tie the knot (aside from Westminster Abbey), I envision a place much more glamorous than my living room. Something along the lines of high tea at the Ritz in London; but unfortunately, that would require vacation days and some serious travel dough. So I'm excited to tell you about the next best thing: A Royal Wedding viewing party during (what else?) Afternoon Tea at the Montage Beverly Hills this Friday, April 29, from 12 to 4 p.m.

The (pre-recorded) Royal Wedding and pre- and post-event highlights will be broadcast in the Montage's Lobby Lounge and Library for your viewing pleasure, while artisanal teas (served in china, of course) and fabulous pastries prepared by Pastry Chef Richard Ruskell (Food Network’s Last Cake Standing) are on the menu. Traditional Tea ($39/pp) includes sandwiches, scones, and pastries; an upgraded Royal Tea option gets you a choice of Pomegranate or Kir Royale champagne, priced respectively at $51 and $61 per person.

Enjoy Afternoon Tea at Montage Beverly Hills

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Montage

Little ones will also feel like royalty with Montage's Mommy & Me Afternoon Tea package. Just order Afternoon Tea for yourself and your little one gets a Children's Tea order for free. After all, what little girl or boy wouldn't want to pretend to be a prince or princess for the day, especially while watching real ones in historic castles, cathedrals and carriages on TV?

Make your reservation by calling (310) 860-7940.

Montage Beverly Hills

225 N. Canon Dr.

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

(310) 860-7940

Royal couple photo credit: Mario Testino


Save the Date: Taste of the Nation Returns May 22

Let's get serious for a second. As much fun as it is to write about fun recipe experiments, fun meals with friends and newfound favorite restaurants, the sobering fact is that there are millions of people out there who are starving, especially children. Childhood hunger is an epidemic; I believe it's a cause we -- especially foodies and food bloggers -- need to support.

So mark your calendars for May 22, when Taste of the Nation comes to the Montage Laguna Beach. A bit of TOTN background: Each spring and summer, the nation's hottest chefs and mixologists donate their time, talent and passion at nearly 40 events across the United States and Canada, with one goal in mind: to raise the critical funds needed to end childhood hunger. Since 1988, Taste of the Nation events has raised more than $73 million, and this year's event is no exception: 100% of proceeds of The Montage Laguna's TOTN event go to Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign.

The Montage Laguna Beach
Photo Credit: Montage Laguna Beach

What can you expect at the event? Seven celebrity chefs will be preparing fresh farm-to-table delicacies to further Share Our Strength’s dream of ending childhood hunger by 2015. Each chef will be paired with local farms and wineries to showcase the ultimate Orange County farm-to-table experience. The A-list group of chefs includes:
  • Chef Scott Conant: Scarpetta Beverly Hills & Food Network judge and host
  • Chef Richard Ruskell: Executive Pastry Chef at Montage Beverly Hills, Food Network “Challenge” winner and star of upcoming Food Network “Last Cake Standing”
  • Chef Mark Peel: Campanile, Los Angeles & Food Network “Top Chef Masters”
  • Chef Joachim Splichal: Patina, Los Angeles
  • Chef Craig Strong: Studio, Montage Laguna Beach’s Signature Restaurant
  • Chef Alex Stratta: Alex, Las Vegas
  • Chef Alan Wong: Alan Wong’s Restaurant, Honolulu
You'll not only get to watch the chefs' work and taste their creations, the purchase of an upgraded package gives you the chance to mix and mingle with them after-hours. All the while you'll be sipping signature cocktails, enjoying live music and basking in the picturesque backdrop of the Pacific ocean.

Ticket packages include:
Package #1: Celebrity Chef Tasting 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $150 per person or at the door for $175 per person.

Package #2: VIP “Meet the Chefs” Reception 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Complete the night with VIP treatment and a sunset toast. Enjoy the Celebrity Chef Tasting followed by an after party to mingle with the chefs. Valet parking and post-event gifts are included. Tickets purchased in advance are $250 per person and $275 at the door.

Purchase tickets here. Can't attend? Make a donation to help strengthen Share Our Strength's efforts to end childhood hunger in America.

Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach
Montage Laguna Beach
30801 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651


Celebrate Easter with Peeps S'mores & Peeps-za!

Happy Easter!

Whether you're enjoying Easter egg hunts, celebrating at Church, or preparing a fantastic Easter feast, I hope you have a wonderful and peaceful Easter Sunday! We're off to a family brunch where there'll be a huge spread of souffle, pancakes, sausage, bacon, pastries and fresh fruit. Sadly, one thing that didn't make the menu cut included a dessert Peeps-za and Peeps S'mores (see photos below). Pizza Hut recently "tested" the PEEPS-za concept and Angie from Eclectic Recipes made the Peeps S'mores. If there's still room in your Easter menu, give them a whirl!

Pizza Hut's PEEPS Lovers Pizza
Photo Credit: Pizza Hut

Easter PEEPS S'mores!


Last Night: President Obama's Dinner at Tavern

It's no surprise that President Obama was in Los Angeles last night. The Los Angeles Times urged West LA residents to "stay home to avoid gridlock," and the presence of secret service agents and LAPD on the streets of Culver City and Brentwood was palpable. The President was in town to attend two fundraisers, one at Sony Studios and a private dinner fundraiser at Tavern, Chef Suzanne Goin's (Lucques, The Hungry Cat, AOC) Brentwood restaurant.

Obama's Arrival at LAX
Photo Credit: LA Times

Tavern: One Hour Prior To Obama's Arrival

So just what does President Obama like to eat? I was lucky enough to get a copy of Tavern's dinner menu custom designed by Goin herself. Turns out -- in the famous words of US Weekly -- Presidential palates are just like ours. Check out the Presidential menu below.

Tavern's Interior

An Evening with President Obama
Crab “ Louie ” with little gems, tomatoes, eggs and russian dressing
Baked torchio with radicchio, wild mushrooms, asparagus and taleggio
Braised beef daube with carrot purée, tomato confit and tapenade
Three cheeses with griddled tavern toasts
“Snickers” bar with salted peanut caramel and vanilla ice cream

Celebrate Earth Day with Magnolia Cupcakes!

Happy Earth Day! I was thinking about how to celebrate Earth Day and realized Bryan and I are already pretty good citizens of our planet. We recycle nearly everything, use "green" light bulbs, reuseable grocery bags, take short showers and turn off the water while we brush our teeth. I mean, that's a start, right? I also planted a tree on Earth Day when I was in the fifth grade, so my karma should be good there. That said, I'm going to celebrate Earth Day this year by walking -- not driving -- about 1/2 mile from my house and getting an Earth Day-themed cupcake from Magnolia Bakery ($3.25/available in vanilla or chocolate with buttercream frosting). I'll be indulging my sweet tooth and helping the planet at the same time, as for every cupcake sold Magnolia Bakery is donating $1 to the “Plant a Billion Trees” organization, an major restoration initiative launched by the Nature Conservancy to restore Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. It doesn't get sweeter than that. (Photo credit: Magnolia Bakery)

8389 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4312
(323) 951-0636


Chick-Fil-A: When Art thou Opening?

So I just joined the world of living and got the iPhone 4. I had the original one but couldn't handle the dropped-call disaster that was AT&T, so I went back to a Blackberry. Fast forward four years and the iPhone is finally on Verizon and I finally have a phone that will allow me to blog from the road.. hence this post. So I'm writing from backstage of the Adam Carolla live show at the Jon Lovitz's comedy club and have had a beer or two, and basically would kill for a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. When we drove up here tonight, we stopped at a red light right by the under-construction Chick-Fil-A on Highland Blvd (see the photo above).

I feel like the plywood Chick-Fil-A is taunting me, as I've been obsessed with the place since I lived in Dallas and Scottsdale and would stop by the "Fil-A" for a chicken biscuit on my way to work. Granted, I haven't had a fast food breakfast since 2006 but I am counting the days until I can roll through the Chick-Fil-A in my WeHo neighborhood. There really is something magical about the "Fil-A" -- I've even got my fast food-averse husband Bryan obsessed with it -- and I've been managing my cravings between August and December at USC football games. We've bought chicken sandwiches and waffle fries by the quarterback load for our group of tailgating friends, and we all "ooh" and "aah" over how great it is. Or rather, how well it pairs with Sierra Nevada pale ale. But a certain level of chicken sandwich depression hits come January when you know USC'S NCAA probation means no more visits to the Coliseum. Which means no more Chick-Fil-A.

So in the meantime, I'll watch the Chick-Fil-A construction slowly progress at Highland Blvd. Could I head downtown to get my fix? Sure, but I'm lazy. Once this new Chick-Fil-A is close to opening, I may have to camp out to be one of the first patrons. But tonight, I'll just watch it with a pang in my heart as we drive by the construction site...

Save the Date: Corkbar's Sausage Supper on April 27

On Wednesday, April 27, from 6 p.m. to close, Corkbar is partnering with local purveyor Huntington Meats to host a three-course, $25 prix-fixe “Sausage Supper," the second installment of its ongoing Artisanal Dinner Series (the first was in February with artisan purveyor the Cast Iron Gourmet). Each dish in the prix-fixe will feature an artisan ingredient from Corkbar’s purveyor partner, and in this case, it will be housemade sausages from the local butcher. Optional craft beer or California wine pairings are available for an additional $10 or 15, respectively.

Want to win a complimentary "Sausage Supper" for two? Do two things: 1) Follow @Corkbar on Twitter between April 15 and April 25. 2) Tweet @Corkbar the name of your favorite sausage dish or recipe.

Winners will be announced on April 26 via Twitter’s direct message service. Good luck and let the sausagefest begin!
(Photo credit: Corkbar)

403 W. 12th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 746-0050

6333 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 938-5383


It Must Be 'La Seine:' Restaurant Row's Latest Addition Introduces Kosher Fine Dining

Pop quiz: If I told you I had plans to open a fine dining restaurant on La Cienega's famous restaurant row, what would you say? I'm guessing you'd probably tell me over 90% of new restaurants shut down within their first year, so don't waste my money. What if I then told you my restaurant would NOT be open for dinner service on Friday nights? You would probably look at me in stunned silence. But wait, there's more. What if I THEN told you my restaurant would be in the seemingly doomed location that once housed The Lodge steakhouse and most recently, sushi joint Hakobe (RIP)? Perhaps you'd just walk away, shaking your head...

Photo credit: Eater LA

Well, here's the deal. A new restaurant -- La Seine -- did just open in the aforementioned, seemingly doomed location on La Cienega, just north of Wilshire Blvd. And I just happen to be a neighbor who has lived a stone's throw away for more than half a decade. I've jogged, driven, walked my dog and strolled with my husband past the glass-fronted restaurant space at least 100 times, and my heartstrings have tugged again and again as I've watched restaurants open -- all shiny, happy and new -- and sit empty for months, eventually giving in to whatever ails them: a failing business model, poor revenue stream, overpriced menu, lack of PR, or prohibitively expensive "restaurant row" rent.

La Seine's Bar
Photo Credit: La Seine

Main Dining Room
Photo Credit: La Seine

Which is why I have to say I'm THRILLED -- no, really -- to tell you about La Seine. It's an absolutely brilliant, and I mean brilliant, concept, especially for my South Wilshire neighborhood. Why? To put it bluntly, anyone who's familiar with the Beverly Hills-adjacent area knows its majority population is comprised of Orthodox Jewish families. I can safely say that as a non-practicing Presbyterian couple from San Carlos and Westwood (respectively), Bryan and I are easily the minority residents on our block, if not a 2-mile radius. But we've made it a point to adapt and make sure to respect their practices. For example, we drive much more carefully through our neighborhood between sundown on Fridays and nightfall on Saturday, when the devout are observing Shabbat and prohibited from using automobiles. It's all about respecting your neighbors and knowing them well enough to adjust accordingly.

Alex Reznik: La Seine's Executive Chef & Top Chef Alum
Photo Credit: Grub Street LA

Which takes me back to La Seine. Opened by restauranteur Laurent Masliah (A Cow Jumped Over The Moon), La Seine is a high-end fusion of French meets Sushi meets Kehillah-certified Kosher cuisine. It doesn't get more niche than that, but it also meets a local resident requirement that no one else is meeting: Kosher fine dining. And when I say "Kosher," I want you to get visions of Gefilte fish and Manischewitz out of your head; because as strange as the combination might sound, La Seine's Executive Chef Alex Reznik is turning out spectacular meals... that just happen to be 100% Kosher. And for a foodie who doesn't know much about Kosher restrictions other than they're incredibly strict, the superb quality, complex flavors and artful presentation of the Top Chef alum's menu honestly blows my mind.

Cocktails (from left to right) | Deauville, Whitsett, Kosher Red Wine, Hamilton
Photo Credit: La Seine

The cocktails are 100% Kosher. The wine list is 100% Kosher. The meats, vegetables, risotto, Israeli couscous, pastas, chocolate souffles; all 100% Kosher. And all 100% delicious. My meal there was pretty epic. Reznik presented us with not one, but two amuses: first, a tall shot-glass filled with spicy tuna, cauliflower puree, avocado mousse and cilantro blossoms, followed by a bite of braised short rib mounded on a crisp piece of chicken skin. Warm, rich, indulgent; they were a wonderful teaser of what was to come.

Amuse #1 | Spicy Tuna, Cauliflower Puree, Avocado Mousse, Cilantro Blossom

Amuse #2 | Braised Short Rib on Crispy Chicken Skin
Sushi was next on the agenda. Chef Reznik served a Japanese-inspired ceviche with Big Eye tuna, yellowtail, albacore, avocado and sliced kumquats. Scoop a bit with a crisp wonton and consider your palate cleansed. Then came the Godwin Roll, two pieces of which were enough to convince me to return to La Seine's sushi bar, regularly and with husband in tow. There's no way he could turn down a roll filled with yellowtail, spicy Big Eye tuna and avocado, tempura-fried and drizzled with housemade Sriracha.

Japanese Inspired Ceviche | Big Eye Tuna, Yellowtail, Albacore, Avocado, Kumquat

The Godwin Roll | Yellowtail, Spicy Big Eye Tuna, Avocado, Tempura
On to appetizers. Yes, we're only at appetizers. First, a plate filled with all things offal: Bone marrow, corned beef tongue, and veal sweetbread nuggets served with garlic crostini, cornichons, banana ketchup and wasabi soy. I found myself face to face (or tongue to tongue) with beef tongue, something I've managed to successfully avoid for 31 years. It's a simple testament to the quality of Chef Reznik's food that I (begrudgingly) broke my tongue fast, but I have to admit I was surprised at the tenderness and delicate flavor. The ground veal sweetbreads were fantastic; if you need to fool yourself to eat them, just imagine they're deliciously fried veal meatballs. One bite and you'll want to finish the entire nugget.

A small bowl of housemade fettuccine botarga (dried and cured fish roe) followed, served alongside stinging nettles, baby artichoke and spring onions. Keep in mind four of us shared the meal's bounty, otherwise we would have been rolled out of the restaurant by this point. The pasta was appropriately al dente, sweet from the braised onions and ever-so-salty from the botarga.

Bone Marrow, Corned Beef Tongue & Veal Sweetbread Nuggets | Garlic Crostini, Cornichons, Banana Ketchup, Wasabi Soy

Fettuccine Botarga | Stinging Nettles, Baby Artichoke, Spring Onions
On to the fish. Halibut with fiddlehead ferns, French lentils, roasted heirloom tomato was crisp on the outside, moist inside, and won me over from the presence of the Fiddlehead ferns and French lentils alone. A stunningly beautiful portion of seabass with tomato-lemongrass consomme, fried quinoa and red caviar hit it out of the park.

Seabass | Tomato-Lemongrass Conomme, Fried Quinoa, Red Caviar

Halibut | Fiddlehead Ferns, French Lentils, Roasted Heirloom Tomato
Nine ounce hangar steaks resting on a bed of spring pea risotto (again, all Kosher), was unanimously voted the best hangar steak any of us had ever had. And that's a serious statement. The Rib Eye "Two Ways" with Israeli couscous and purple artichokes was gorgeously marbled, but surprisingly the flavor didn't stand up to the hangar.

9 oz. Hangar Steak | Spring Pea Risotto

Boneless Ribeye Done Two Ways | Israeli Couscous, Purple Artichokes
Anyone who says they don't have room for dessert is typically lying, but in our case, we really didn't have room. Until three of them showed up at the table, that is. Chocolate ganache cake with cocoa nibs, sea salt, praline ice cream, and a shot of chocolate bourbon milkshake took us back to the days at elementary school when we were able to stuff ourselves with ooey-gooey chocolate sheet cake slathered with chocolate frosting. An upgraded version in the best possible way, sprinkled with sea salt. We conquered the chocolate souffle with green tea ice cream, scraping the sides to indulge in every last bite. And last, but certainly not least, the strawberry, blueberry and lime/mint sorbet trio were refreshing and light.

Chocolate Ganache Cake | Cocoa Nibs, Sea Salt, Praline Ice Cream, Chocolate Bourbon Milkshake

Chocolate Souffle | Green Tea Ice Cream

Sorbet Trio | Strawberry, Blueberry, Lime + Mint
Afterwards, we weaved our way out of La Seine through through a sea of energized Orthodox bar patrons happily awaiting their tables. Once outside, we all looked at each other, then back at the jam-packed restaurant, and couldn't believe our eyes. Finally, a restaurant at 14 La Cienega Blvd. that both stands a chance at success and has a built-in clientele. A French/Sushi/Kosher-certified restaurant with a Top Chef contestant running the kitchen, no less. Hey, stranger things have happened. :)

14 North La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 358-0922
Reservations available on OpenTable

Sun-Thurs: 6-11pm
Closed Fridays
Sat p.m.: Open after Shabbat-2am

Thanks to Joey and Max from Wagstaff and E*starLA for sharing such a great experience!


Cafe del Rey: The Marina's Mediterranean Hot Spot

Cafe Del Rey. As a native Angeleno, for year's I've known it as the "nice restaurant" on the odd stretch of Marina del Rey's restaurant row. It sits on Admiralty Way between the wharf-themed Warehouse and Tony P's, a sports bar/restaurant with a bevy of beers on tap. Until recently, the Marina was not a culinary destination; rather it was a viable option "in the middle" to meet a South Bay-based friend for a Casa Escobar margarita or deep-fried appetizer. Boy, has that changed. From the opening of Southern-meets-molecular Vu to Top Chef Jamie Lauren's post at Beechwood, new places and (renowned chef's) faces have taken the Marina landscape by storm. Add Abbot Kinney hot spots Gjelina and Tasting Kitchen to the mix and you have a veritable culinary force to be reckoned with.

Dining Room with Marina Views
Photo credit: Lisa Cohen

They say adaptation is key to survival, and a recent visit to Cafe Del Rey proved to me that the dockside landmark has not only survived the onslaught of new competition, it's thriving. Executive chef Daniel Roberts (Asia de Cuba) has reinvigorated the kitchen, developing a Mediterranean menu inspired by the bold, fresh flavors of the French and Italian Rivieras. The remodeled bar and upgraded dining room boasts an energy provided by a mix of locals, businessmen and groups of 30-somethings ready to indulge in a great meal. During my visit, two older gentlemen at a neighboring table were enjoying a rousing game of Domino's and (presumably) an even more enjoyable bottle of 1995 Bordeaux. I would have been jealous had manager and wine aficionado Shaun Freeman not poured my dinner date and I a tasting of some of his favorites, including Frank Family Zinfandel and a Decoy by Duckhorn blend that we enjoyed while watching the sun set over the Marina.

Executive Chef Daniel Roberts

A selection from Cafe Del Rey's extensive wine list
Looking around at our neighboring tables, each and every person seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their meals. A glance at their dishes -- presented by the kitchen with an obvious painstaking attention to detail -- explained why: they were both gorgeous and mouth-watering. Nearly all of Cafe Del Rey's dishes are made from scratch, including hand-cut pastas, house-cured salmon and a killer Parmesan focaccia served with green olive tapenade.

Homemade Parmesan Focaccia with Green Olive Tapenade
(green olives, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, thyme, EVOO).
While Roberts' menu emphasizes seafood -- think seared ahi tuna, Scottish salmon, Maine diver scallops and pan-roasted Mahi Mahi -- chef also offers a selection of proteins for the meat lover: Chateau steak, Moroccan lamb burger, pan-roasted duck breast and a bone-in veal chop. Each ingredient is sourced from where it's best in quality, in season, or sold by artisanal vendors who are at the top of their craft. For example, chef Roberts gets his truffles from the Italian-born "Truffle Brothers," who import top-notch white and black truffles, oils, butters, etc. It wouldn't be nearly as great of a story if it weren't for the fact that the Truffle Bros. show up at the kitchen's back door and sell their wares from their "Truffle truck."

When our dishes came, I needn't look any further than my plate of "Tuna: Nicoise Style" for proof of Cafe Del Rey's reinvention. The de-constructed "salad" was almost too beautiful to eat. The tuna glistened like a gem and was topped by a arrangement of crumbled hard-boiled eggs, Kalamata olives, chopped green beans and tiny Fingerling potato "chips." Delicate housemade agnolotti, filled with mascarpone and topped with freshly-shelled spring peas, pea tendrils and a brown butter sauce, disappeared within moments of arriving. The aroma of a truffle pizza made with a mix of mozzarella and Truffle Bros' truffle creme teased us with its scent before hitting our table. I couldn't help it; I had two pieces! Doesn't sound like a lot? It was half of the pie. When the main courses arrived, I was thrilled at chef's inclusion of cuttlefish to a squid ink farfalle, prawn and piquillo pepper dish. The cuttlefish provided a great textural bite to the tender pasta and supple shrimp. Up next: Maine diver scallops were served alongside black trumpet mushrooms, pea puree and another batch of fresh springs peas.

"Tuna: Nicoise Style"

Truffle Pizza | Mozzarella, Truffle Creme

Spring Pea Agnolotti | Mascarpone Filling, Peas

Squid Ink Farfalle | Prawns, Cuttlefish, Piquillo Peppers
Maine Diver Scallops | Pea Puree, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Spring Peas
Just when we thought we were done, out came dessert. While dinner (with the exception of the truffle pizza) was light and included halved portions, I silently prayed that the desserts would be small and refreshing. My prayers were answered, as a honey panna cotta with blood orange sorbet, honey tuile and fresh berries, and miniature raspberry mousses on pistachio crusts with lime meringues appeared at our table. Talk about the perfect palate cleanser! A few bites of the honey panna cotta (an underrated flavor, if you ask me) and I was in heaven. Looking back at our shared appetizers, entrées, desserts and wine, I was reminded that Cafe Del Rey is an institution in the Marina for a reason. And the restaurant's "new-ish" Chef Roberts is doing wonderful things in the restaurant's kitchen, inspiring his staff to put out equally inspired dishes, and putting his passion for Mediterranean flavors on the plate.

Honey Panna Cotta | Blood Orange Sorbet, Berries

Raspberry Mousse | Pistachio Crust, Raspberries, Line Meringue
Thank Mary Park at Wagstaff for being such a fun and fabulous dinner date! Can't wait til our next adventure. In the meantime, I may have to check out Cafe Del Rey's three-course Easter brunch ($38/pp) this Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., complete with bottomless mimosas and live jazz trio "Juan Carlos Quintero."

4451 Admiralty Way
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 823-6395


The Great Peanut Butter Debate: Smooth or Chunky?

The other morning I was enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs and peanut butter toast. I was admiring a slice of sourdough toast slathered with chunky peanut butter and it occurred to me that I needed to share my love for chunky peanut butter with the world. So I did what any normal 30-something with a smartphone would do: I posted it on Facebook. This simple Facebook status -- "Chunky peanut butter is better than smooth" -- elicited such a strong and polarizing response that here I am blogging about it. My husband and I are in staunch opposition; he's on Team Smooth/Creamy and I'm on Team Crunchy/Chunky/Nutty. He actually gets heated when people prefer chunky peanut butter to smooth, and I can't understand why someone would dislike the wonderful texture and layers of flavor in chunky peanut butter? I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

Where you stand in the great peanut butter debate? In a current Facebook poll, crunchy/chunky is winning 98 votes to 79. It's a tight race and I want to know which team you're on!


Save the Date: Artisanal LA Returns April 16-17

Mark your calendar for next weekend, April 16-17, when Artisanal LA (called LA's Best Food Event of 2010) returns with a weekend-long community shopping, tasting, and learning experience showcasing the city’s finest local, sustainable and handmade edibles.

When: Saturday, April 16 - Sunday, April 17

Where: Santa Monica Place - Dining Deck, Level 3
395 Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Parking options: Complimentary Bike Valet on 4th St and 3-Hr Hosted Car Valet (w/restaurant validation) on 2nd St & 4th St in addition to Santa Monica Place's parking lots (2 hours free) and the City of Santa Monica's numerous lots that are walkable to the venue.

Because there'll be:
* Nearly a hundred local, artisanal and handmade food vendors to shop from
* Chef demos, expert led panels and speakers on local honey, craft beer, and more!
* Free hands-on workshops and cool activities
* Hosted beverages from Honest Tea, DRY Soda, Function, Coba and POM
* Local Wine Tasting hosted by Venokado (21+)
* Hosted Apothecary Bar from VeeV (21+)
* Organic spirits tasting with Tru Organic Spirits / Green Bar Collective (21+)
* Comfy lounge areas sponsored by Numi Tea & Magical Blooms
* A Preview of Santa Monica Place's 'The Market' and its purveyors before next month's Grand Opening
* Two café areas featuring first-time local purveyors, a preview of downtown's soon-to-open Daily Dose, and Intelligentsia
* Complimentary Bike Valet & 3-Hr Car Valet (w/ Dining Deck validation, first come, first served)
* DJ Bryan Davidson
* Photo Booth
* Giveaways all weekend long
* Partial proceeds benefit St Vincent Meals on Wheels

How much?

Admission is $10 in advance online. Tickets are available online through Eventbrite and $15 day of event at the door - cash only, capacity allowing. Just to be safe, get your tickets online now. If pre-sale tickets sell out, they may not be available at the door and oyu'll be S.O.L.

Get more info at Artisanal LA's website, Twitter and Facebook Fan Page.


Popcakes: You Can't Beat Cake on a Stick!

Think about the last time you went to a baby shower, a bridal shower, a wedding, or even a birthday party. What do you remember most from the event? Fun conversation? The food? The open bar (at which someone had one too many vodka sodas and acted the fool)? As memorable as the token drunk guest may be, when I think about recent events I've attended, I remember the tiny details, the personalized touches that really boost a good event into a great one. For example, we recently attended a wedding in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and each guestroom had a welcome bag complete with personalized embroidered towels and the favorite snacks of each guest. At our wedding, Bryan and I designed a custom Napa Valley map and welcome letter that included a list of our favorite wineries, restaurants and off-the-beaten-path attractions. Another close friend's wedding had a nacho bar open to guests before the reception, an homage to the bride's love for all-things-chips-and-cheese.

Photo credit: PopCakes

So when I recently co-hosted a bridal shower for a close friend, I wanted to include a fun touch that both honored the bride and groom and gave the guests something to take home. Turns out they were something to talk about, too. I turned to friends at Popcakes, a company that I found at Savor Los Angeles, an annual premiere dessert event. What exactly is a popcake? Simply put, it's a small ball of cake on a stick, dipped in icing and covered with anything from crystal sprinkles, jimmies to incredibly intricate fondant and frosting designs. Think college mascots, baby blocks, soccer balls, etc.

Custom Popcakes
I asked Popcakes to create a series of popcakes that reflected the bride's wedding colors: purple, green and white. I chose three flavors of cake filling: red velvet, chocolate and a marble swirl. Then, as a fun touch, Popcakes attached a small fondant heart disk piped with the initials of the bride and groom to each popcake. The popcakes were then wrapped in cellophane bags, tied with purple, green and white ribbon, and shipped to me. At the shower, I simply arranged them in glasses using the shredded paper from the packaging as a base. They were a small touch, but one that guests really enjoyed, especially when they found themselves eating red velvet cake on a stick. In general, I've always thought food on a stick is way more fun than food on a plate; it makes for fun conversation and even an ice breaker as people try to keep the food on the stick or in their mouths (and not on the floor). Popcakes are no exception, and I'll definitely order from them again.

Phone: 949.207.6030


Give Your Guacamole The Grill Treatment

Every cook has their "foolproof" recipe. You know, a go-t0 recipe that is sure to please a couple at an intimate dinner party or a Super Bowl party for 20. My playbook includes rockstar guacamole recipe that calls for avocados, tomatoes, garlic, onion, lime, cilantro, a few splashes of hot sauce, and salt and pepper. That's it. It's not the simplest of guacamoles, but it's a winner every time.

How can we make this taco better? Add grilled guacamole!
Two nights ago Bryan and I had just gotten back from Las Vegas -- mostly business for me, mostly pleasure for him -- and we wanted an easy homecooked dinner. We went with steak tacos, knowing we could throw some meat and corn tortillas on the grill, top it with chopped onions and cilantro and call it done. That sounded great by itself, but I upped the ante and chopped up some homemade pico de gallo. Then Bryan said, "If you're going to make pico de gallo, maybe you could make guacamole, too?" How can I say no to an adorable man who loves my guacamole more than most things in life? Especially when he picks up the puppy and pretends to have Charlie ask for the guacamole?

Throw Your Avocados on the Grill & Thank Me Later.

I was suckered in, but I was inspired by the grill. I threw a jalapeño, slices of sweet onion and halved cloves of garlic on the grill for a few minutes. No salt or pepper. The veggies were naked. When they got some nice grill marks, I chopped them up and added them to a small bowlful of chopped tomato, cilantro and lime juice. Then I halved the avocado, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and threw it face down on the grill. After about 2 minutes the avocado was sporting gorgeous grill marks, and I spooned it out into the bowl, mashing it ever so slightly into the other ingredients (keeping the integrity of the chunks). As a finishing touch, I threw in a few dashes of jalapeño hot sauce and the guac was done. Up until then, my signature guacamole had never been given the grill treatment, but I'm so glad I did it! Grilling the veggies gave the jalapeño and the onion a slight smokiness while mellowing out the garlic's bite. The heat made the avocado almost silky and incredibly easy to mash. Not to mention, the grill marks were a lovely touch.

Never grilled your guac? Try it out and share with your tips below!
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