Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Travelogue: Anna Maria Island, Florida

I recently visited Florida for the first time since I was a child. I have to admit that I wasn’t very excited about it; I mean, I live in Los Angeles, so I don’t need to go to Florida to find a beach (and then there’s the humidity…). But I have to say that visiting Anna Maria Island in mid April was actually pretty darn nice.

We stayed in a rented house just a couple of blocks away from where Bradenton Beach meets Holmes Beach. The beach wasn’t crowded, had clean, white sand, and clear blue water.

Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island

Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island

We took a boat tour of Sarasota Bay with Capt. Kathe. Actually, since our group was so large, we needed two boats, so I was on a boat helmed by Capt. Kathe’s daughter, Capt. Katie Scarlett (I assume Kathe is a fan of “Gone With the Wind”). Katie Scarlett is easy-going and fun, and she took us from Cortez around the bay so we could see dolphins, some of which even played in the wake of our boat. We didn’t see any manatees, though it’s supposedly possible. We also made a stop at Beer Can Island, which is beautiful, despite its name.

So this happened today. #dolphins #nbd #florida #imonaboat

A video posted by Maya Meinert (@shopeatsleep) on

Dolphin action #dolphins #florida #video

A video posted by Hon. Rory Owen Delaney (@mbdfilms) on

Capt. Kathe docks at Star Fish Company Market & Restaurant. If you’d like to eat there after your tour — and you should — Kathe and co. will call in your order while you’re on the boat so you don’t have to wait in the huge line that forms at lunchtime. I had the fried grouper sandwich with cheese grits on the side. The grits are really, really cheesy, so maybe go for the fries if you’re not inclined to that kind of fish-and-cheese combo.

Fried grouper sandwich and cheese grits at Star Fish Company

Fried grouper sandwich and cheese grits at Star Fish Company

My husband and I also went parasailing, something I’ve always wanted to do. There are lots of parasailing companies on Anna Maria Island, but we went with Bradenton Beach Parasailing. We got 15 minutes up in the air, which came with photos, a higher height than the 10-minute flight and a dip in the ocean, for $89 per person (the 10-minute option is $69 per person). Those 15 minutes go by fast, so I can’t imagine how quick the 10-minute flight would be!

Going up! parasailing

Going up!

Parasailing

Parasailing

We had lunch one day at the City Pier Restaurant located at the end of the Anna Maria Island City Pier. While the food wasn’t necessarily anything special, the fish was cooked nicely, and the ambiance — which includes a view of the ocean while listening to a live musician — was spot-on. The blackened grouper on top of a Greek salad hit the spot. (You’ll find grouper on just about every menu in this area.)

Blackened grouper on Greek salad at City Pier Restaurant

Blackened grouper on Greek salad at City Pier Restaurant

For my mother-in-law’s birthday, we had dinner at Beach Bistro. We started with a sunset cocktail hour, then moved inside for our meal.

Sunset cocktail hour at Beach Bistro

Sunset cocktail hour at Beach Bistro

We opted for the three-course $65 tasting menu (there’s an optional “exotics” course available for an extra $25 that includes your choice of tenderloin rillette, seared foie gras, seared scallops or “Lobstercargots”). I had the oyster mushroom farro, bouillabaisse and Prailine Alexandra, a house-made praline with vanilla bean ice cream and Frangelico. I heard a lot of good things about Beach Bistro from other visitors to Anna Maria Island, but in the end, I thought the meal was nice but not necessarily a standout.

Oyster mushroom farro at Beach Bistro

Oyster mushroom farro at Beach Bistro

Bouillabaisse at Beach Bistro

Bouillabaisse at Beach Bistro

Praline Alexandra at Beach Bistro

Praline Alexandra at Beach Bistro

This trip to Florida changed my mind about the state — well, as long as I’m staying on an island or beach (wink, wink).

09

05 2016

Cafe Diva Steamboat Springs offers eclectic seasonal menu

Elk sausage and manchego empanadas at Cafe Diva

Elk sausage and manchego empanadas at Cafe Diva

Every year I visit my in-laws in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and I try to visit a different restaurant each time. This year we went to Cafe Diva, a favorite among the family.

Located in Torian Plum Plaza at the base of the ski mountain, Cafe Diva Steamboat Springs focuses its menu on local, seasonal ingredients. Dish preparations vary in style and include influences from Latin, Asian, European and other cultures.

My favorite dishes came at the beginning and end of the meal.

My starter of elk sausage and manchego cheese empanadas with a poblano-pepita pesto and cilantro-lime cream was an interesting take on the Latin-American snack using very-Colorado elk meat. This was my first time eating elk, and I liked it a lot, mostly because it wasn’t as gamey as I thought it would be. My husband’s elk tenderloin was really nice, too.

The dessert we shared — a take on bananas foster with Grand Marnier-vanilla bread pudding, roasted banana gelato, rum salted caramel and candied pecans — was also a standout. All the flavors worked together nicely, as did the different textures. The roasted banana gelato was my favorite part, as I love everything banana!

Bananas foster at Cafe Diva

Bananas foster

When it came to my main dish, seared diver scallops wrapped in bacon and served on a bed of spinach spaetzle with lemon-vermouth butter and capers, I wasn’t as impressed. The dish was too salty, which made it hard to enjoy. I should have ordered the sablefish with white balsamic-orange miso served in a coconut broth with snow peas, shiitake mushrooms and crispy ramen noodles. I had a taste of my sister-in-law’s, and I found it much more balanced. However, she thought it was a bit on the sweet side, so maybe I just liked it because my dish was so salty.

Diver scallops

Diver scallops

Sablefish

Sablefish

Even though there were some hits and misses, because my family likes Cafe Diva Steamboat Springs so much I’d be willing to try it again, especially since it is one of the few nicer restaurants in town (which is not very big).

07

02 2016

Travelogue: Rancho Bernardo Inn

Rancho Bernardo Inn

Rancho Bernardo Inn

Tucked away in a northern San Diego County suburb, Rancho Bernardo Inn is a hidden gem. Wind your way through a sleepy upper middle class neighborhood, and at the end you’ll find a resort complete with a golf course, spa and plenty of dining options. The vibe is perfectly Southern Californian with its laid-back elegance and beautifully manicured grounds (21 fountains!) — perfect for a weekend getaway.

Rancho Bernardo Inn has an 18-hole golf course, a spa, three pools and four eateries. It’s an intimate property, just big enough to make you feel as if you’ve escaped from the real world for a while.

I was recently invited to stay at Rancho Bernardo Inn as its #INNfluencer of the month. I was treated to a day at the spa, and my husband and I enjoyed dinner at the resort’s fine dining restaurant, AVANT. We stayed with the resort’s Spa + AVANT Package, which includes a 50-minute hydrating facial or organic signature massage and two-course dinner at AVANT with a glass of on-tap wine or beer for $175 per person.

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23

11 2015

A light lunch at Fogo de Chao? It’s possible.

Market Table plate with feijoada

Market Table plate with feijoada

Until recently, I hadn’t eaten at Fogo de Chao, the upscale Brazilian churrasco chain that offers unlimited grilled meats. Why? Because I didn’t think I would ever get my money’s worth. I can’t eat a lot of meat at once, so I thought Fogo de Chao was just not a place I would ever go.

Then, Fogo de Chao in downtown Los Angeles introduced a $15 Gaucho Lunch, which includes unlimited trips to the Market Table and feijoada bar. While the Market Table includes cheeses, charcuterie, seasonal salads, fruits and vegetables, and the feijoada bar gives you the Portuguese bean, beef and pork stew that you’d expect, you might want to supplement that with some meat (but not too much, right?). For an additional charge, you can get your choice of one meat. And they’re all tasty, even the chicken (especially the chicken). If you want all the meats, it’s $36.95 at lunch, so these lunch specials really are a deal.

The side dishes are not to be missed, either. The fried polenta, caramelized bananas and pao de queijo cheese rolls are my favorite. And don’t forget dessert. The Papaya Cream, a simple-yet-delicious combination of papaya fruit blended with vanilla ice cream topped with creme de cassis blackcurrant liqueur, is like a milkshake without the milk…and with booze. The Caramelized Pineapple with vanilla ice cream and caramel drizzle is another unique dessert.

Potatoes, bananas and fried polenta

Potatoes, bananas and fried polenta

Caramelized Pineapple

Caramelized Pineapple

Bottom line: there are a lot of options at Fogo de Chao, and they don’t all have to break the bank. (Not all locations offer the Gaucho Lunch, so check before you go.)

Note: This meal was hosted.

18

10 2015

The Arthur J offers fun twist on classic steakhouse

Arthur J table
Steakhouse The Arthur J rounds out Chef David LeFevre’s mini restaurant row in Manhattan Beach, adding a meat-focused eatery to seafood restaurant Fishing With Dynamite and small plates place MB Post. What makes The Arthur J special is not just its quality meats but its take on additions and sides. LeFevre has created a fun spin on the classic steakhouse while maintaining its elegance.

That mentality extends to The Arthur J’s cocktail list, too. My favorite is The Long Goodbye made with Oxley gin, lime, tumeric, honey, carrot and cardamom. Based on the ingredients, I didn’t think I would like this. But one sip — and one look at its vibrant color — changed my mind completely. It’s sweet and savory, giving a nice balance for someone who can’t decide what kind of drink to order (which is often me).

The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye

And then we turn to the menu. Yes, the Parker House rolls with deviled ham spread are delicious. Get them. And the Emmental popovers with strawberry preserves are the stuff of dreams. Get them, too. Get all the bread.

Parker House rolls

Parker House rolls

Emmental popovers

Emmental popovers

However, I didn’t love the roasted bone marrow toast. I think it was the focaccia bread that threw me off; the oiliness was too much paired with the already rich marrow. For a lighter starter, the hamachi tartare offers sweet and spicy notes, but in the end it’s just a nice raw fish-and-avocado dish and nothing groundbreaking.

Bone marrow toast

Bone marrow toast

But nevermind that. You could order the bone-in ribeye Tomahawk chop for two (or three or four, since it’s so large) or the Japanese Wagyu ribeye cap and be happy. But you’ll be happier when you start adding sauces and toppings.

Arthur J steaks table

The Sauces & Butters menu has all the usual suspects plus chimichurri, Vietnamese caramel, black truffle butter, yuzu koshu butter and foie maple butter. The toppings menu includes a sunny side up egg, lump blue crab, foie gras and a steamed half lobster.

Foie-topped steak

Foie-topped steak

If you get one side, get the potato gratin. Lefevre’s version is like nothing I’ve had before: a brick of layered potato, cheese and sauce that could stand on its own as a meal.

Potato gratin

Potato gratin

Desserts at The Arthur J are legit, too. The kitchen turns out solid versions of classics such as cheesecake and a chocolate bar, but it’s the strawberry shortcake that stood out for me. Not only do you get the fruit with the cream and a sugar-dusted biscuit, but the dessert comes with strawberry sorbet to boot, providing another dimension to an otherwise standard dish.

Strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake

Note: This meal was hosted.

03

10 2015

Don’t miss the final days of Little Next Door’s summer menu

Little Next Door's peach Country Crouton

Little Next Door’s peach Country Crouton

Though we’re nearing the end of summer, it doesn’t mean summer menus are done just yet. French brasserie Little Next Door on West Third Street is still serving peaches, corn, eggplant and other warm-weather foods on its current dinner menu.

Here are my favorite dishes from Little Next Door’s summer menu.

The Country Crouton with burrata cheese, white balsamic vinegar, grilled peaches and candied walnuts on crusty bread. The delicate smoothness of the burrata and peaches pairs nicely with the tangy balsamic and crunchy nuts.

The Summer Ravioli made with corn pudding, chanterelle mushrooms, chive blossoms and butter nage is summer personified. Sure, you can find a corn ravioli on lots of summer menus across Los Angeles, but that’s because corn is delicious and should be consumed whenever possible, especially when it’s in season.

Summer corn ravioli

Summer corn ravioli

Spring for the classic Steak Frites, a large portion of marinated skirt steak with a green peppercorn reduction and shoestring French fries on the side.

Steak Frites

Steak Frites

For dessert, I’d recommend two options: the lemon tart if you want something light, and the chocolate and salted caramel pot de creme if you want something rich.

Macarons, lemon tarts and pot de cremes

Macarons, lemon tarts and pot de cremes

Summer ends in just a couple of weeks, so head over to the Little Next Door before fall arrives, when stone fruit and corn are nowhere to be found only to be replaced by sadness. (That’s not true; I love persimmons and Brussels sprouts!)

Note: This meal was hosted.

07

09 2015

Head to The Corner Door for new bites, solid drinks

Lobster and shrimp bolognese. Photo by acuna-hansen.

Lobster and shrimp bolognese. Photo by acuna-hansen.

The Corner Door, which has become a Culver City food and drink mainstay, has gone through its fair share of chefs, with varying success. The latest to helm the kitchen, Executive Chef Brendan Collins and Chef de Cuisine Ali Haji, bring a new dinner menu that has something for everyone.

Collins, who is also heading up the kitchen at Birch and previously worked at Waterloo & City, Melisse, Anisette and Palihouse, brought on Haji, who has worked with Collins for the last eight years, to create a diverse menu that reflects his upbringing in Southern California by Indian parents who were raised in Africa. Talk about the proverbial melting pot!

While not every dish I tried worked for me, many did, and others pleasantly surprised me.

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26

06 2015

Amorino gelato packs big flavor in pretty package

Amorino gelato's flower cone

Amorino gelato’s flower cone

I love ice cream and all its variations, so when I learned about Amorino gelato and its beautifully crafted flower cones, I jumped at the chance to try it. Everything looks like it tastes better when it’s shaped like a flower, right?

Luckily, Amorino gelato lives up to appearances. Using all natural and organic ingredients, the Beverly Hills store (the only one on the West Coast) makes wonderfully smooth gelato. Texture is key to me, and Amorino’s gelato is nicely dense and elastic, just as gelato should be (American ice cream has more air and cream churned into it, so it’s fluffier and creamier than gelato, which is generally denser).

The gelato’s flavor is satisfying, too. I tried the tiramisu and chocolate, which complement each other. The tiramisu has just right amount of espresso, and the chocolate is rich.

One thing to note: I had this gelato in a take-home container, which is supposed to be consumed within two days for optimal taste. If you take the large container home, you better have a bunch of people ready to help you eat because there is A LOT of gelato in there. Then again, you could just keep it all for yourself…

Note: This tasting was complimentary.

25

05 2015

Waffles and beer at The Iron Press in Orange County

A beer flight at The Iron Press

A beer flight at The Iron Press

The Iron Press in Costa Mesa is the food party lovechild of co-founders Jeremy Saenz (Lucky Habanero Salsa) and Leonard Chan (California Shabu Shabu). Tucked into the once furniture store-dominated shopping plaza South Coast Collection (SOCO) next to the 405 freeway, the restaurant specializes in waffle sandwiches and top quality, California-brewed craft beers. Whether you come for the beer or come for the waffles, you’ll stay for both.

Let’s start with the waffles.  Most items on the menu are waffle sandwiches. I was very tempted by the prosciutto and gruyere waffle sandwich and the country madame, but elected to order the country style buttermilk fried chicken. This actually wasn’t a sandwich at all, but rather fried chicken tenders topped with gravy, sitting on a freshly pressed Belgian waffle. Being the breakfast food fan that I am, I threw on extras of bacon and a fried egg on top. Traditionally, this comes served with a side of maple syrup (it did), but to kick it up a notch, I was also given jalapeño maple syrup to pour on my chicken and waffles dish. Even though there’s just a subtle difference, the spiced up version is definitely the way to go.

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Though everything works together, if I had it all to do again, I would have elected to forego the gravy. It’s fine in and of itself — smooth and creamy — but I would have liked to let the crispy texture of the fried chicken get more appreciation. This was no fault of the dish; I can only blame my mind for adopting the attitude of “did somebody say gravy!?” The egg yolk didn’t run as much as I usually expect from fried eggs, but then again how much liquid does one want on his waffle?

On the side and begging to be shared were the Imperial IPA Irish Nachos. A beer lover’s take on one of the heaviest snacks ever, the Iron Press version actually tastes light and fresh. The cabbage, prosciutto and jalapeño are simmered in an imperial IPA before being placed on waffle fries and topped with lager cheddar sauce and sliced avocado. Between the sauce and the simmering, they actually manage to sneak almost a whole beer into these nachos. What makes the dish feel lighter are the crisp waffle fries that aren’t overly oily as their drive-thru counterparts usually are. The cheddar sauce is used sparingly so as to not make the fries soggy, and everything is fresher when you add avocados! Ketchup is provided on the side, but you won’t need it.

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

If you’ve conquered your waffle sandwich and skillfully shared your nachos, you’re ready to move on to dessert. There’s a Cap’n Crunch Berries-infused waffle and a S’mores waffle just ready to complete your ascension into food coma heaven. On this occasion, the Wookie called to me and I answered. Using the in-house cookie dough, a waffle-shaped chocolate cookie comes warm off the iron and is topped with ice cream. Again going the extra mile, I got mine topped with strawberries and bananas and drizzled with chocolate. Say what you want about me being fancy, I have no shame. This dessert can feed a bigger group than one might expect, though it gets a little tricky gathering your bites together on the plate. The cookie is crunchy rather than chewy, since it’s cooked thin on the waffle iron, so it’s brittle and breaks apart easy.

Wookie waffle

Wookie waffle

Opening in 2012, the place quickly became known for their events and evenings focused on breweries and craft beers. Every month, the bar hosts a Tap Takeover Tuesday with local brews, including many exclusive and limited varieties. In October, the bar featured Mother Earth beers from Vista, California. This is the night where the beer big boys bring their A game.

The Iron Press recently opened a newer location at the Anaheim Packing District, spreading its loaded waffle point of view across Orange County.

Note: This meal was hosted.

02

11 2014

Get ready for Barberia restaurant

Expanding from the Barbershop Ristorante pop-up into a permanent space in downtown Los Angeles named Barberia restaurant, Chef Walter el Nagar (Il Grano, La Botte) has been hosting a run of tasting menu evenings to preview what is in store for the new restaurant. As the location on Hope Street downtown nears completion, these tastings are being hosted in Brakeman Brewery, a gallery space off of Jefferson Boulevard along the Metro Expo Line.

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

With a wonderful sound system, cozy bar and golden sunsets to die for, we recently dined on the outdoor patio area at dusk.

After being greeted by a bar inside, a carefully prepared meal was our treat outside. First up to say hello was duck tartare with shaved foie gras and anchovy on sailor bread. The laws in California don’t prevent consumption of foie gras, but the ban on the sale of foie did make this dish a pleasant surprise for many at the table. The theme of pairing these items together is appreciated, but let’s be real: you’re excited about the foie.

Duck tartare with foie gras

Duck tartare with foie gras

In a nod to the sea and barbershop, up next was an uni sponge cake in tomato broth presented in a sea urchin bowl atop a stone with a barbershop pole etching. The taste was subtle, as most of the dishes in the evening would be, and was a refreshing follow-up to the tartare on a warm evening.

Uni sponge cake

Uni sponge cake

The prawns aguachile was quite interesting. It was like a prawn enchilada in green sauce but wrapped in avocado slices instead of tortillas. I would probably prefer this as a snack rather than a dinner course, but I definitely enjoyed it. As always, avocados remind you that you’re in California.

Prawns aguachile

Prawns aguachile

The linguine alle vongole was my favorite dish of the evening. Using wheat germ pasta cooked in clam juice and fresh clams, there’s a kick at the end of each bite thanks to the chili in the spicy sauce that the pasta sat on rather than being coated in it. I could have had three more helpings of this dish, gladly.

Linguine alle vongole

Linguine alle vongole

The abalone and porcini mushroom risotto was a real hit, and for many their favorite dish of the tasting menu. Everything combined perfectly, and each bite had a great taste to it. Seaweed was also used for flavoring in this dish, and it was spot on.

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Dessert came with a message: “Tomato is a fruit.” That’s literally what the dish was called. A sweet tomato in a bowl with strawberry syrup, topped with white chocolate ice cream and vanilla foam, the message was loud, clear and delightful. This wasn’t a decadent dessert, full of sin and scandal; it was more like a peaceful agreement between good looking people who never really wanted to fight each other. This will be a popular dessert for the summertime.

Tomato dessert

Tomato dessert

Overall, this peek at what’s to come for Barberia restaurant definitely shows promise. You can experience this preview (last pop-up takes place Oct. 17) and decide for yourself by making online reservations on the Barbershop website. No word on when Barberia restaurant will open, but there will be quite a few people in the food world interested to see how this joint venture with Adam Fleischman, of Umami and AdVantage fame, will turn out.

Note: This meal was hosted.

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29

09 2014