Monday, December 26, 2011

Mini-Italian Pot Pies

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Although I did use the holidays as an excuse to make these little variations of a family favorite, by no means will I limit it to the holidays. This little concoction is what I'd like to call a 'happy accident' - a term that I commonly refer to tasty little surprises in the kitchen or of a new restaurant. Instead of the hearty meat, potatoes, and vegetables approach I decided on a little twist for the sake of my own curiosity: a white wine reduction + a combination of simple yet tasty (Italian-themed) ingredients. It's rather simple to put together and yet impressive from the outside looking in...give it a try and see what you think!


Ingredients
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 Minutes
12 Servings

Filling
1 Cup Spaghetti Squash, Roasted
4oz Cheese Roll, Prosciutto Mozzarella
1/2 Cup Golden Corn, Kernel
1/2 Cup Tomatoes, Diced
1 Package Pie Crust, Dough
1 Puff Pastry Sheet

Glaze
8oz White Wine
1 1/2 Tsp Corn Starch
1 1/2 Cup Chicken Broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Poke Spaghetti Squash with a fork a few times and place in oven for 1 hour on a cookie sheet or small pan. Set aside to cool. Once cool, peel off outer layer and separate from seeds into a bowl for later use. Reduce oven to 375 degrees. (You just learned how to 'roast' a squash...easy eh? Same applies to butternut and several other gourds.)

Spaghetti Squash, Roasted and Peeled
Spaghetti Squash and Corn/Tomato Mixture
While the squash is roasting: Roll both 9" prepared pie crusts into two balls. Separate into a standard muffin tin (12 balls) and press dough into the tin shape. Mix tomato and corn; season to taste (depends on you, but a light dusting of salt, pepper, and minced garlic did the trick). Cut the mozzarella into 12 small slices. Unroll the puff pastry sheet and use a glass or circular cookie cutter to create the tops to the pot pies, fold in half, and use kitchen scissors (or a knife) to cut two holes. 

Pot Pie Crusts
While the squash is cooling: Bake crusts for 5 minutes until slightly (but not fully) cooked. Press a slice of the mozzarella into the crust, top with a spoonful of spaghetti squash, and a spoonful of the corn and tomato mixture. Set aside.

Pot Pies with Filling
Reduce the white wine over medium to high heat and slowly pour in 1 1/4 cup of the chicken broth; season to taste (oregano was my only addition, the wine provided the bulk of the flavor).  Mix remaining chicken broth with corn starch and pour into the glaze mixture. Heat to boiling and until thickened. Spoon glaze over unbaked pot pies and top with the puff pastry 'lids'. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until crust is golden.

Pot Pies with Puff Pastry

Nutrition Info: (1 Serving)
Calories: 276, Total Fat: 15.8, Sat. Fat: 6.9g, Cholest.: 13.3mg, Sodium: 464.3mg, Carb.: 27.6g, Fiber: 0.5g, Sugars: 2.5g, Protein: 5.8g
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Friday, December 23, 2011

La Conversation Cafe

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West Hollywood, CA. For brunch. For Breads. Go here. It seems like I've been on a cafe kick these past few months, but maybe that's telling. Eateries of this type tend to offer simple eats at reasonable cost yet still providing that mouthful of flavor. Why not, eh? Another addition to the cafe list is this little eatery off of Doheny.

A friend and I walked to the cafe one morning to grab a croissant. I saw the baked items and planted myself at a table and ordered a full meal in addition to my mini-croissants (is it wrong to get excited over a bread basket?: melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness.). I wasn't the least bit dissatisfied. 

Bread Basket
Almond Brioche - baked fresh daily is their boast and claim it so. The pastry mirrored coffee cake with an almond touch and went down easy. I love my baked goods, but this felt a bit sinful...could I taste the butter? Was that my imagination? No...at least I hope not. There were so many others I wished to try but no time and not enough stomach to make it happen.

Eggless Burrito
Eggless Burrito - an easy concoction that I ordered out of curiosity: flour tortilla wrapped around chicken, spinach, mushroom, onion and cheese. The flavors were on the neutral side for my tastes, but it was a feel-good, 'healthy' dish. A simple southern California tradition made without eggs and absolutely no frozen ingredients, needed to be tried. Of course I added some spicy then practically swallowed the burrito whole.

This may be a place you have never thought of trying but I do suggest you give it a whirl. The bakery alone warrants a visit and their cases will tease you until you order. The interior is quaint and the wait can be iffy, but after you sit down and take a bite of their mini-pastries you will find your eyes exceeding yours stomach. With an environment that cozies you up to conversation, patrons that range from locals to celebrities, all while feasting on made-to-order cuisine, what's not to enjoy?


La Conversation Cafe
638 N Doheny Dr
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 858-0950
www.laconversationcafe.com
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cafe Los Feliz

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Los Angeles, CA. I walked up Hillhurst looking for a small bakery that felt homey and I was hoping for something delicious. What a treat to find such a bakery with a food menu in addition to their sweet eats! My friend and I were greeted with smiles and quickly agreed that this was worth a go. After a few minutes of studying the menu, we ordered and chose a table outside to watch the street while we indulged.


Almond Croissant - served straight from the case, I was expecting an underwhelming experience. I was wrong. The croissant was soft as I bit into it and the almond paste was a delight. The sweetened filling was spread evenly throughout the croissant, no area left missed, and was a subtle blend of almond and sugar. I was supposed to share but my friend and I decided to get our own, for the sake of the 'full' experience.

Breakfast Sandwich on Croissant
Breakfast Sandwich - featured eggs, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayo layered on a fresh croissant. The ingredients were hearty and were brimming beyond the oversized croissant. I took one bite, closed my eyes, and for a moment, had a moment. The sandwich quickly found its way to my heart and slowly to my belly as I took another bite to re-affirm it's tastiness. The sandwich was hard to put down and sad to see go, but exciting with each bite. Why can't all food give me this feeling?

The staff were friendly and answered any and all questions they could. They even made suggestions to the order to enhance the consuming experience. Though the space is tiny, minimally decorated with only a few chairs and tables inside and out, it has some of the tastiest baked treats I've tried. It remains one of my favorite spots that gives me an escape from the busy-ness of Los Angeles with a plate of fresh baked and a side of delicious.


Cafe Los Feliz
2118 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 664-7111
www.cafelosfelizonhillhurst.com
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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Larchmont Bungalow

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Los Angeles, CA. On a routine venture into new eats I found myself here, staring at the dimly lit patio wondering if it was actually open. It was. Oh my.  The eatery itself was quiet. A few smaller groups sat around the restaurant talking quietly amongst each other, but the place was mellow. With a set-up similar to larger franchises, the design can be considered warm, depending on your mood.

In walking inside, the first two things I noticed were cookies and pastries. I saw these cookies that were at least 5" in diameter, soft to the touch and tongue, and one of my friend's favorite indulgences. I wasn't really in a cookie mood, but the "...MmMmmMMmMmmMm" that repeatedly came from friend's mouth as we again wandered down Larchmont Boulevard certainly verified that their cookie is a pretty darn good thing. Sure, they had a host of other things, but I'm a visually stimulated person some time so their dessert display did come first...but on to the eats.

Mint Mocha
Mint Mocha - bitter, sweet, symphony of flavor but none more grand than any other. I like my coffee clean, just like most preferred palatable flavor combinations, and though this had at least that it primarily served to warm me up not wow me. Their menu was extensive enough to try again and again until I find my future coffee favorite.

Poutine
Poutine - poutine, poutine, poutine...a dish my friend taunts me with every time he goes home. I've had it before, not in its traditional sense, but I've had a 'taste'. The dish is simple: fries + gravy + cheese (curds or crumbles). It's also simply tasty...the gravy and fries sandwich in the cheese and melt it into the fries which really do require a fork to consume. I wasn't overwhelmed with the fries on this particular venture, but the dish satisfied my craving for the treat. 

Southwest Grilled Cheese
Southwest Grilled Cheese - best described as a lightly toasted pulled pork sandwich with a heap of cheese melted into the bread. The taste was comforting, oddly so. I like my grilled cheese but this twist gave me a smile...and a nice smear of BBQ sauce around my lips. It was hearty for the little sandwich I expected and very easy to put down.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding - I saw what looked like bread pudding, validated with inquiry, and the server nicely went on to explain that it is one of the things the bungalow is known for...served in-house heated with a side of whipped cream. Three different flavors to choose: Chocolate Chip, Mixed Berry, Cinnamon...I asked the most highly chosen item...and Chocolate Chip (to-go) it was! The server instructed me to heat up the pudding in the oven for 10-15 minutes at a low heat (I chose 300) at home for the in-house feel and fresh taste.

Prepared as directed the bread pudding remained moist, the chocolate melted nicely, and although not terribly sweet, the sweet was enough to provide the right amount of bursts to the dish. I told myself I would only eat half, but after seeing that there were only two bites left, I said forget  rationalizing, this is mine!

This eatery is nice but not uniquely separate than so many other quaint little cafe's in the area. However, with its range of offerings and tasty bites, it is most certainly a welcomed addition to anyone's roster.


Larchmont Bungalow
107 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 461-1528

www.larchmontbungalow.com
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chorizo Dressing with Gravy

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Here comes the season for food favorites and traditional casseroles! Don't you just love the holidays? It becomes the permissible time to buy pants with elastic waistbands and eat as much as you'd like. Haha, all joking aside, one of my favorite dinner sides is a traditional holiday dressing. This year, I decided to spice up the dish with chorizo and hoped for the best. The dish was a success, but test it out for yourselves, and maybe it'll become your new holiday staple!

Chorizo Dressing
Ingredients

Dressing
16 Servings
Prep Time: 30 Minutes

3 8oz Sourdough Loaves, Cubed to 1" (approx. 20 cups)
1 Red Pepper, Diced
1 Onion, White, Diced
6 Celery Stalks, Chopped
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 Cup Cilantro, Chopped Finely
2 Tsp Chipotle or Cayenne Pepper
7oz Chorizo Sausage, Uncooked
2 1/2 Cups Beef Broth
2 Eggs, Beaten

Gravy
3 Cups (approx.)
Prep Time: 15 Minutes

3oz Chorizo Sausage, Uncooked
1/4 Cup Flour
3 Cups Beef Broth

Celery, Red Pepper, Onion, Sourdough Loaves
Separating and preparing ingredients before I cook has been one of my habits to minimize clean-up and the overlap of various products. Anytime I make dressing, I purchase and cube the bread at home; the food takes on a heartier texture. I'll let the bread air for a day or two to harden, but if not dry by the time I'm cooking there's a simple fix: 200 degrees, spread evenly on a cookie sheet and baked until dry (20 minutes or so). I usually dice some of the punchier veggies (onions, peppers) and finely chop the strong flavors (cilantro). The beef broth used in the dressing is to moisten and draw out the flavors of the drained chorizo, but please add to your desired preference. I also prefer beef broth in this recipe to add a bold kick to the dish, and it can easily be made from bouillon.  If it's a bit too heavy for you, use chicken broth instead for a lighter taste.

Dressing
Celery, Red Pepper, Onion (Diced) and Sourdough (Cubed)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cubed bread in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle a large skillet with EVOO and saute the celery, onion, and peppers until softened and set aside. Cook the chorizo until the fats separate and the meat darkens; remove excess oil. Pour all cooked ingredients into the large mixing bowl. Toss bread with cilantro, cayenne or chipotle pepper. Mix broth and beaten eggs together. Pour liquid slowly over dressing and toss until evenly distributed. Place into a greased 13" x 9" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes covered with foil and an additional 15 minutes uncovered until golden and crisp.

Prepared Chorizo Dressing
Dressing Nutrition Info: (1 Serving)
Calories: 203, Total Fat: 8.6g, Sat. Fat: 3g, Cholest.: 43.1mg, Sodium: 460.6mg, Carb.: 23.5g, Fiber: 1.5g, Sugars: 1.6g, Protein: 7g

Gravy
Chorizo
Cook 3oz of chorizo in a medium saucepan over medium to high heat. Once browned and fats separate, whisk in flour until thickened. Slowly whisk in broth until smooth and cook at a medium to low heat to simmer and thicken. Add pepper to taste.


The gravy will have a rich flavor and a tart punch from the chorizo and requires very little additional spices. It pairs nicely with the dish and is quite simple to make. Be watchful though, overheating the gravy could thicken it a bit too much to be palatable. 

Note: If gravy doesn't thicken to desired consistency, there's the ole standby: dissolve 1 teaspoon of corn starch in 1/8 cup of cold water and pour into gravy to thicken.

Gravy Nutrition Info: (1/4 Cup)
Calories: 48, Total Fat: 3g, Sat. Fat: 1.4g, Cholest.: 9.5mg, Sodium: 491.3mg, Carb.: 2.8g, Fiber: 0.1g, Sugars: 0.6g, Protein: 2.5g
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mama's Secret Bakery

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Los Angeles, CA. Is it new? Or simply hidden? It actually has a hint of both, in that it recently opened and alludes to a 'secret' in its very name. Now what is that secret? Well, I've been wondering the same thing, but it draws me back again and again to try and figure out the answer to perhaps an obvious question: good food in a relaxed environment? Hm...no it can't be that obvious.

I stumbled upon the experience with a friend on a recent Sunday afternoon after having spent some time away from culinary delights. It was a nice change of pace to encounter something new and to experience it with a friend who is generally too busy to venture outside of the customary favorites. Our first option had no tables, and with no desire to wait, we walked but a few feet to this little eatery.

The space has a contempo feel, a European vibe, and eclectic fare with a lean to the French and Turkish cuisine. It ranges in address from 8314-8316 on 3rd Street, so no need to be confused by the listing location. The staff are friendly and accommodating to your requests and the chef is open to bending a few recipes to make certain things work for the individual palate (but Shh...that one is a secret). Order from your table which you can pick...pretty much wherever.

Chocolate Liegois
Chocolate Liegois - this French foamy cup of coffee was a subtle blend of bitter and sweet, but paired with a chocolate powder and yielding quite the satisfactory cup. I wasn't sure if I should eat the whipped cream, mix it together, or cut past it to just sip the coffee - it was good either way and has become my new favorite caffeinated treat. I've found that I rather enjoy their coffee menu as a whole, and have witnessed repeat customers in my repeat visits for the coffee alone.

Croque Madame
Croque Madame - had one of the most cleanly cooked eggs I've ever seen on such a sandwich... a generous helping of turkey on the sandwich and simple combination of flavors made it a strong contender for a new sandwich favorite to try at home. The bread was not their traditionally served brioche, so I can't speak for the sandwich as it was intended - but this was a good option.

Almond Croissant - was served warmed, soft to the bite, and tasty on the tongue. The almond paste is a fair amount and evenly distributed, so as to get a try with each bite. Each time I've ordered these they have been served warm and towards the end of the meal (if you're there for something beyond a cup of coffee and a little snack) and pair perfectly with my warm beverage.

Almond Croissant
Their menu features a range of foreign-originated items and the big 'to try' is their Turkish Serpme experience...traditional Turkish light fare meant to be shared and enjoyed. I'll add it to my list of meals to eat in 2012, and am looking forward to a number of breakfasts and lunches here in the future.  Right now the restaurant's little treats are supplied by an outside vendor, but I have heard 'talk' that as the business expands these little morsels will be prepared in-house; an exciting thing, given that in-house prep would imply expansion of the treats they could offer to their customers...which is generally a mouth-watering thought.

With an offering of free wi-fi and no push to leave, it's easy to get settled, get comfy, and get to work on that book, homework assignment, or journal entry.  Conversations can easily be shared as can local artwork. Take a look around while you're there and check out pieces from local artists; this new venue supports creativity and has plans to enhance the dining experience and restaurant in the coming year...you may notice a difference each time with one fundamental constant: Mama's secret will keep you coming back.

Mama's Secret Bakery
8314-16 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Via Delizia

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Portland, OR. This great little eatery in the Pearl District was pretty good, but for a traveler like me having wifi available was a definite plus.  I found myself walking by this place several times, unsure of what type of food it actually offered. The menu itself was a bit more rounded than I anticipated in reading reviews, covering an assortment of Italian and Mediterranean fare. They seemed to specialize in gelato and coffee more than anything else, so I certainly had to take a sample after my meal.

I went with their Toscano Sandwich with House Salad and ordered an Almond Latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon (at the recommendation of a friend). Sandwich was good and hearty - larger serving of turkey meat than I would generally expect, a nice surprise. The salad was simple fresh...but within the realm of expectation - Portland organic expectations.


The latte took my attention easily away from the food - smooth, warm, and delicately created. There was no pizzazz or picture creation, just a simple line across its foam. The owner put some effort into this glass, and it was actually recommended to me that he make it. Needless to say, great recommendation, as it was one of the more savory cups I enjoyed across the week.

The service was friendly and my friend who joined was a regular, so I felt a little bit more on the 'in' when it came to enjoying this eatery. For a bite alone, or with a small group to catch up, I can see this being a comfortable spot to chat, write, or just take in the day.

Via Delizia
1105 NW Marshall St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 225-9300
www.viadelizia.com
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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Pix Patisserie

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Portland, OR. Cozy is the appropriate word for such a place, with its tiered up patio chairs on the outside and intimate (and bright) interior. Certainly not a place for a crowd, but on a sunny day, as it was on this particular day, sitting to enjoy the weather with a nice cup of coffee...life seems to slow down just enough for you to enjoy your company and the sweets on which you decide to splurge...

My friend and I warmed up to a Rosemary Mocha Latte and Hazelnut Latte. As I've said in previous postings, Portland seems to know the "secret" behind a good cup of coffee - rosemary infused coffee? Interestingly delicious. Hazelnut paste? Ne'ere powder nor syrup to be found? Wait for the surprise at the bottom of your cup - small remnants of the hazelnut you just drank. A great concoction and great texture on the tongue.

Decadence, simply put, is the word to describe the sweet eats. This isn't a typical croissant and donut type of pairing, as you see the array of delicate French edibles presented in the display. I went for the "Pixie" and "La Frambroise" - both  tasty, although my lean was for the Pixie, with its layers of sweet and hints of salty. La Frambroise, a powdery sweet edible with a sweet raspberry interior, seemed better suited for a winter night, and promptly served after it was made.

With a North and SE location, each hosting the sweet eats and delicious beverages but with a different decorative aesthetic, it will be easy to find the suitable spot to become a regular. It's a shame I don't actually live here, but  I would certainly recommend this cozy place as a stop for locals and travelers alike.

Pix Patisserie
3402 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 232-4407
www.pixpatisserie.com
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Pan 'Fried' Chicken

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Sometimes I find myself with a craving for Southern comfort cuisine, but as quickly as I crave I consider two key issues: calories + labor. In my family, pulling out the deep fryer doesn't take too much thought; it seems as though we all have one. Here in Los Angeles, I've stopped myself many times from purchasing one of my own...the temptation to make my childhood treats would be too great. This quick and easy Pan 'Fried' Chicken shortcut is just that: a shortcut. It is not a recipe so much as it is a means of giving you that flavor without the 'heavy' baggage. 

Now on to the food!

Breading (season as you wish):
  1. A buttermilk soak is common after the chicken has been tossed in flour. After as little as 30 minutes, toss the chicken in flour again and fry in your preferred method until fully cooked and breading is golden.
  2. What if you don't have flour? If you have crackers, crush them up and do the same as the above. 
  3. No crackers? Consider cereal, you can get the same result with rice krispies, crispix, corn flakes, bran flakes...think: clean and simple. Avoid sweet cereals and cereals with harder textures.
  4. If you don't have buttermilk, then use egg. Whisk one or two eggs together (with or without the yolk) and evenly coat your chicken, then toss in whatever coating you've come up with above and cook as preferred.
  5. Not interested in egg or buttermilk? Then don't use either. Press the chicken into the coating you've chosen and cook as preferred.
'Frying'
  1. A deep fryer isn't necessary for fried chicken, but certainly makes it easier. 
  2. You can also use a deep pan to avoid the splatter and pour in your oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, olive...depending on preference) to about 1/4 to 1/2" in depth. 
  3. If you prefer not to fry like above, then toss a little butter, melt, and press your coated chicken in to sear. Once golden, and you've tested the chicken to be fully cooked, then plate. 
  4. If you prefer not to use butter, then try an oil spray, and sear the chicken as you would normally. 
  5. If you wish to avoid the pan fry method altogether...just bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes in the oven. I'd advise against, because then it's no longer fried chicken!
Pictured above is a combination of Breading: #3, #5, and Frying: #3. Translation? The chicken tenders were seasoned with cayenne pepper, pressed into crushed corn flakes, and pan-seared in butter. The tenders were thin enough to cook all the way through and plated straight from the pan! The result was deliciously simple and a perfect fix for my craving.

Note: For breasts, I would suggest cutting horizontally to convert the breast into two thinner halves. If tenders, the pan-method may be fine, but making a few shallow cuts assists in the cooking. If the breading becomes golden brown but you're unsure if it's fully cooked, cut a slice and check. If not, bake in the oven on foil for 10-15 minutes at 350, depending on the thickness of the meat. Don't risk your health because it smells good!!
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cafeteria

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New York City, NY. Sure, it can get crowded. Sure the prices can seem a bit on the moderate to high side depending on the entree, but here's the twist: 24 hour dining.  For some reason when I consider 24 hour dining, I immediately think of the franchise favorites I grew up going to after high school or on extended road trips. As a result, there's a soft spot in my belly for diner food. To find a place that serves up the down-home favorites at any hour of the night without leaving the restaurant feeling like "oh...geez...I can't believe I ate all of that" is difficult, but Cafeteria can offer you that experience. 

This place has always depended on the time of night and later seems to be a bit better. The crowd is livelier but not rowdy. I have met up with friends to eat here and I have become friends with people at the restaurant itself - comfort food brings people together. The vibe is 'alive' to put it mildly - alive enough to where you need to have a voice to hear people at your own table. In my case in my last visit, my voice was absent, but friends seem to be really good at reading my lips anyway, haha. The wait time at about 11pm was less than 10 minutes, and with such incredible weather, outside eating seemed necessary.

The food can spark some memories (Biscuits and Gravy, Mac 'n Cheese, Wedge Salad) but as if a tradition, my order consisted of the Mac Attack Sampler, a triplet serving of their three Macs: cheddar and fontina, smoked gouda and bacon, and truffle oil.  Now, I don't like the dish because it's absolutely delicious, I like it because of what it invokes. I grew up with boxed macs as most kids, but my grandparents always spoiled me with a cheesy noodle goodness that could only come in a casserole dish, not stove-top. This dish serves up three baked mini-variations from the traditional type, to a little added flare, and the ever popular truffle oil infusion. I'm all about traditional taste and I tend to enjoy the simplest of the three. It seems to have something for everyone - I've ordered this as an entree and as an appetizer to share, and leave pretty happy either way.

If you want to change your late-night diner experience to a simple metro aesthetic, it's worth it for the sake of aversion to that feeling of regret, and...you never know just 'who' you may see.

Cafeteria
119 7th Ave
New York, NY 10021
(212) 414-1717
www.cafeteriagroup.com
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Papa Haydn

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Portland, OR. It's open late. It has dessert. It serves coffee. 'nuff said? (nah)

Driving back to my temporary residence from an incredible pizza experience, my friend and I saw Papa Haydn's interior still lit. Wait, there is another location? Earlier on 23rd I remember walking in to take a peek at the restaurant's highly suggested dessert menu. Indeed, there is an Eastside and Westside restaurant. Either way, the idea was to eat a light after-meal bite and a nice cup of coffee...of course that meant a cake, cookie, and a dessert beverage.


Cassata Cake - Soaked with liquor and served with coffee beans, caramel and hot fudge...nice combination of flavors. The buttercream frosting was the focus here - light, fluffy, and delicious. The cake texture was nice on the tongue, but again, although the tastes were good, the frosting was the clear winner - should this have been a competition.


Chocolate Chunk Cookie - A traditional chocolate chip cookie made a bit thicker than the standard cookie. It was a cookie you could easily expect, but as a cookie it still made one smile with each bite.


Black Pearl - coffee mixed with liquor, with a hint of  black licorice (as a child I've grown to dislike the latter). Not the right mixture for me, but I could see where they were going with it and I applaud the creativity.

The restaurant boasts a large assortment of desserts that exceeds many I've seen in such venues. The interior space is large enough for larger or smaller groups. At a late hour, it seems to be the option for dining or, as in our case, dessert.  Throughout the day dessert options may dwindle, but there are enough featured options to arrive and leave content. As we were sitting at the below location, we had a great view of one of the chefs preparing desserts from the kitchen - it was a great thing to watch and she looked quite happy doing it - something that makes for a better tasting experience as the consumer. If you've not yet tried this eatery and wanting to venture around Portland in the search of a full meal or a light bite, take a gander in here to see if it suits your cravings.

Papa Haydn
5829 SE Milwaukie Ave
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 232-9440
www.papahaydn.com
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Monday, October 03, 2011

Lovejoy Bakers

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Portland, OR. When you're traveling in a foreign city, or better stated "foreign to you" city, there are some great food-oriented mobile apps.  If you find yourself sans internet and with user friendly reception, good eats are just a few finger strokes away. Outside of the Saturday Market (on a Sunday) I walked through the city of Portland on a quest: where could I find a vanilla cream cheese danish and a good cup 'a jo?

I came across a number of places: Petite Provence, Pearl Bakery, Nuvrei Pastries, Ken's - all of whom I called to ask three pretty important questions:
  1. Do you carry cheese danish?
  2. Do you bake them on-site?
  3. At what time?
Sure, it may seem a bit extensive for a quick early morning call, but typically pastry shops can answer them with absolutely no difficulty. Of course if you find the rep hesitating before answering, just hope that they're new to the shop, otherwise fresh may not be what is in the store. I settled on Lovejoy Bakers in the Pearl District, a fun and quaint little area to walk through in the downtown area.

The bakery has a sweet Vanilla Cheese Danish made with flaky croissant dough and is baked in the wee hours of the morning on-site. I ordered the last one and paired it with a large White Mocha and sat down on this atypically sunny day to enjoy my second eat of the day.  The coffee was incredibly smooth with a hint of chocolate - maybe it was a good day, or maybe it was what would soon learn about Portland: it's just a coffee makin' kind of city.

The flavors of the pastry hit home, despite the fact that I came late in the morning, chose the last one, and realized that mine was a tad overcooked. The pastry was flaky, could easily taste wonderful earlier in the day without reheating, and wasn't too sweet. The size was larger than I expected, more than enough to satisfy, and I couldn't even finish the entire danish - an oddity for me. After passing it to a friend, the validation that it was pretty darn good was heard with each "Mmm" he uttered in his consumption.

The cafe itself hosts indoor and outdoor seating, with a number of fresh breads and other goodies to try. The line moves quickly but with just enough time to survey the potential chow. I was tempted to indulge in a bit more, but I knew with just the environment alone I'd be back for a quick bite, cup, or conversation.

Lovejoy Bakers
939 NW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 208-3113
www.lovejoybakers.com
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Banana Ice Cream

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Last minute dinner party and unsure of what to make for dessert? Well, lucky you froze those bananas thinkin' that at some point you'll make some warm banana bread! For a simple but tasty low-fat, low-lactose, overall low-calorie option for an ice cream delight, imagine this dish. Start it off before you get to cookin' and it will be ready for your guests come dessert time. Enjoy...

Banana Ice Cream with Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Glaze
Ingredients
Prep Time: 10 minutes
6 Servings

3 Medium (7") Bananas, Frozen
1/4 Cup Nonfat Milk
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla
1Tsp Cinnamon
5 Tsp Splenda

Chop 2 1/2 bananas and place in food processor, set aside remaining 1/2 banana. Pulse until semi-smooth. Add milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and Splenda, and blend until smooth. 

Chop remaining banana and fold into mixture. Place in freezer-safe container and freeze until desired consistency (3 hours seemed to work fine).  


Keep in mind that you can replace the Splenda with granulated sugar, adding greater calories and a different nutritional breakdown.
Total Prep Time: 10 minutes or less
Nutrition Info (1 serving)
Calories: 60, Fat: .2g, Sat. Fat: .1g, Cholest.: .2mg, Sodium: 4.9mg, Carb.: 15g, Fiber: 2.4g, Sugars: 7.7g, Protein: 1g

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Glaze

Ingredients
Prep Time: 5 minutes
4 Servings

1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbsp Water

Heat a small saucepan to medium. Mix dry ingredients and heat in pan. Pour in water until ingredients are well melted and mixed. Set aside to chill to room temperature and drizzle over ice cream.
Total Prep Time: 5 minutes or less
Nutrition Info (1 serving)
Calories: 53, Fat: 0g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholest.: 0mg, Sodium: 4.2mg, Carb.: 13.7g, Fiber: .1g, Sugars: 13.4g, Protein: 0g
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Shake Shack

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New York City, NY. Remember those days, waiting in line at a theme park, surrounded by a diverse group of people in anticipation of what's to come? This is slightly reminiscent of that experience, with a slight change: the fun happens in your mouth and the wait is in Madison Square Park. The experience can be just as memorable as those roller coasters and possibly more so.  You have probably heard about the lines here. Yes, it is THAT good, but some words of wisdom: even during non-peak hours, prepare yourself for at least a 30-minute wait...if you can endure that then you'll certainly be fine to feast.

Don't let this featured franchise fool you - the food is quite addictive, enough so that you may find yourself going once, twice, or three times in just one visit to New York City. When all you have to go back to are over popularized burger joints advocating healthy and fresh, this is a nice little escape during your escape to offer a range of delicious choices. If I lived in Manhattan, I'd pace myself back a bit (let's hope).

Cheese Fries - Crinkle or krinkle cut fries? I remember these from my school cafeteria and never really seemed to like them but was hopeful I'd like them now. Let's just say that I'm still a fan of other fry variations to these. The fries are saturated with a generous 'drizzle' of cheddar cheese and crispy, at first. Over the time it takes to choose what other items to eat, the fries tend to sog, but the sauce remains fun to dip other food items into to switch up the flavors.

Custard Shake - is probably one of the better milkshakes I've had or allowed myself to have in recent years. The shake is rich, dense, sweet, and creamy...all the things to make it wonderful. It's cold and it's thick, yet it's nearly impossible to wait until it melts a bit more before you take on the challenge of sucking it down. I drank feverishly until I finished with nearly a brain freeze in its wake. Oh...but it was worth it.

'Shroom Burger and Custard Shake
'Shroom Burger - an explosion...simply an explosion of gooey, delicious flavor in my mouth. It's an easy concept: portobello mushroom filled with Muenster and cheddar cheeses, fried to a crunch, topped with lettuce, tomato, and topped with their 'sauce' in a lightly toasted half-sliced bun. It's also an ideal scenario: a bite, an explosion of cheese, the bun catches, and my lap is free from the oily mess that is common amongst burger joints. Even if you're not a mushroom lover, this burger will temporarily make you forget that little tidbit about yourself.

The longer you wait, the more you may want to order, but don't fret, there are a number of locations to get your fix. It can seem a bit unreasonably priced for just an order of burger and fries, but after the last lip-smacking morsel, it just seems worth it.  If you're craving a burger (or a twist on one) make an effort to stop by. If you're visiting NYC, put it in your itinerary. Give it a chance and see for yourself why this 'ride' is worth the wait.


Shake Shack
E 23rd St & Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600
www.shakeshack.com
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ONYX: restaurant + lounge + bar

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Los Angeles, CA. Wandering the up-and-coming streets of Downtown Los Angeles and pinpointing a relaxed atmospheric venue is a challenge. Tastes are questionable and the expectation is met with a rather underwhelming portfolio. Needless to say a low bar was set for this bar, but it won me over by the night's end. Onyx: restaurant + lounge + bar is undoubtedly a spot to try.  The owners of Stray Cat branched out into this evening set-up with dim lighting, candles, high-top tables and well-cushioned chairs. Pillars extend into the restaurant and the bar sits on a far end underneath a few flat-screens. Pay no mind to what they show, like the music selection, after a few beers you'll get why...otherwise, it will continue to make no sense.  Digression aside, it remains clear that the atmosphere is quaint, the set-up is comfortable, and the area is conducive to an early or late night exchange of conversation. 

Spicy Garlic Fries
Spicy Garlic FriesI started off my dine-in experience with this appetizer which seemed just a bit 'off' for the avid fry lover. The fries had a kick I've never quite tasted before - usually it's in the sauce paired with the appetizer or the fries are mildly "seasoned" but when have they ever successfully been spiced? It came paired with a cooling ranch which tamed down the initial bite. I originally shared with a friend but after more bites I found myself getting him to talk JUST so I could eat.

Mexican Cheesesteak
Mexican Cheesesteak - The steak comes wrapped and large but oh so delicious, steamy, warm, and gooey. Our server kept returning to the table, daring me to finish my meal. Could I? Yeah, I'm a man of hunger, so of course I devoured it. It was a typical cheesesteak sautéed (grilled rib-eye, peppers & onions) and layered with a few extras: jalapeño, salsa, cilantro, chipotle mayo....the combination took poor Philly to a new level, an flavorful explosion in anyone's mouth who's willing. The grilled jalapeno holds less punch - so those of you with a preference for the mild, you may not actually mind this.

Mexican Cheesesteak, up close and personal...
The "unique" quality of this bar is two-fold: 1) the chef modified the daytime menu for an evening lounge hotspot; 2) the design exemplifies the name: the tables and pillars are made with onyx (cryptocrystalline form of silica). The pillars actually play host to a warm light, emitting a soft yellow glow for you and your company to enjoy. Staff are either specific to the venue or work next door, but they are all friendly, attentive, and open and honest with with their food cravings. 

With friends or without, to enjoy a happy hour (Daily 4:30p - 7p) or a decent beverage, Onyx: restaurant + lounge + bar seems like an ideal nighttime spot for a drink or just to eat something tasty. I've been looking for an outlet similar to my Portland festivities at a similar cost and quality of cuisine. Although this venue is a bit pricier, I think I finally found a good contender.


ONYX
restaurant + lounge + bar
118 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 891-1144
www.onyxloungela.com
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Friday, September 02, 2011

Firehouse Restaurant

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Portland, OR. This place came highly recommended during my visit to PDX. A converted restaurant with a heavy wood interior - quite the interesting place. Rotisserie chicken and fire roasted pizza - all huge pluses. Staff were friendly and although I came for a quick bite, the menu had some interesting eats that I could see myself enjoying in the future. Ordered a few quick options of Fried Cauliflower, Potato CrispsWedge Salad and a couple of beers (like their coffee, Portland and beer = harmony).

The Fried Cauliflower was neutral in flavor but an interesting concept. I found my taste buds going nuts over the citrus creme that it was paired with - though I also found myself dipping the Potato Crisps more so than the appetizer it was intended for...oops.


The Potato Crisps were a mix between french fries and potato chips: lightly fried, tossed with a salty cheese. A cool concept that would've been amped up easily with a fresh garlic aioli or a seasoned ketchup.

The Wedge Salad had a good flavor. Similar in look to the wedge options I've seen in Los Angeles, this dish differs in that their fresh dressing actually complimented the dish in a way that wasn't overpowering. The lettuce was crisp, and the sprinkle of light cheese added a creamy element to the combination.

I enjoy restaurants that feature regular foods in a different way. This restaurant was certainly one of them, playing with texture and flavor combinations to throw a little 'extra' into the dishes. The venue is uniquely decorated and staff are accommodating to your needs as a consumer, but I think next time I want to see what their rotisserie and fire oven are all about.

Firehouse Restaurant
711 NE Dekum St
Portland, OR 97255
(503) 954-1702
www.firehousepdx.com
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Früute: Tarts Unordinary - CLOSED (Online Only)

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West Hollywood, CA. With an inundation of mediocre trendy fares to fulfill the hunger for the tasty, cuisine with a simplistic, innovative, or artistic design often fail to impress. The increase in "coming soon!" signs boasting better eats sometimes just isn't enough to make the drive to a city worth the trip. Well, it seems we are at a turning point, with Früute and its new hand-held food concept intended to excite the senses. With its location in a newly established grocery plaza, one would beg the question: what is this place? is it even opening? Good news folks, it's operating in full swing and going on its 6 week (+) marker. And for this taste testing spot, we are the guinea pigs...but believe me, you won't mind...

Exterior Box
Simplicity. It is hard to find this modestly decorated storefront.  The interior has very little signage, with clean lines and neutral colors throughout. The packaging is no different, with boxes for sets of 4 or 8 made out of recycled paper. Despite this aesthetic, which mimics their contemporary website closely, your eyes focus on the array of colorful tarts perfectly lined in front of you. 

Innovative. The tarts take simple, to an extravagantly new mouthwatering level as bites of taste flood your mouth classically entertained in the style of say, an amuse-bouche. I spoke with a clerk who indicated that the shop, although off to a slow beginning, is starting to show regular and new customer faces. The geometric tart display validated this, given the minimal remaining popular items at 4:00p, a good four hours before closing. Each tart is moderately priced for a tart ($3) but with the experience about to unfold, I do tell you, it's worth it. To impress or to indulge, a tart such as this certainly makes for a unique and interesting gift to another or to your own salivating mouth.

Interior Box

Art. "Tarts Unordinary" or little creations of art, food sculptures, or whatever the spin is, it works. Each tart is hand-crafted in the dawn of the day, and for such items as their Black Pepper Tart, ice crystals are replaced periodically for absolute freshness of taste and design for its buyer. Each bite-size creation is a little over 1" square, and layering upwards to about 2" at its maximum. Each tart is uniquely colorful, vibrant, and decorated in such a way that makes you want to stare at length before indulging...even continue to stare as you continue to bite, to see if it holds up - it does. The balance of sweet and spicy, berries and fruit tones, with a light flavor is an art to its own: combining simple flavors in a clean way with classic tastes alluding to some personal favorites from home.

What's that mean? It yields a product that you want to go back to, something you just WISH was open a bit earlier in the day. If it sustains continued success by local patrons, maybe this will change, but for now, let's eat on to what we care about: TASTE.

The little shop breaks down tastes for the classic and the curious palates:
  • curious (4): matcha, mont blanc, wasabi, black pepper
  • classic (12): three berries, citron, passion fruit, yuzu, creme brulee, sea salt caramel, araguani, snowball, pecan, tiramisu, budino, baileys puff
Each item is credited back to their organic ingredients, from the flour to the fruit, making each unique composition full of light and fresh flavors - with some unexpected twists and turns, I must add.

Black Pepper Tart
Black Pepper - started off my 'curious' selection...a peppery bittersweet chocolate with a berry core layered on frangipane (or franchipane) over a chocolate crust and topped with blueberries divided by a decorative yet edible sugar crisp (also infused with black pepper). Immediate notes of spice  are followed by the subtleties of fruit to cool the mouth as you eat this tart. The more you eat, the spicier it gets, but I found myself finishing in about three bites, ending on a cooler note with remnants of warmth reverberating in my mouth.

Pecan Tart with Raspberry Cream Puff
Pecan - for my first 'classic' choice I went with what looked like a mini-pecan pie. Their version is a combination of pecan, sugar, and maple fudge in a simple vanilla crust and topped with a baby cream puff filled with a raspberry ganache. It tasted like a sample of the south with its sweet pecan sugar medley. I did find, however, the raspberry ganache puff to be a bit gratuitous in pairing, adding an element that felt a little out of place with the other more humble flavors.

Wasabi Tart
Wasabi - a Japanese horseradish-themed tart, was my final 'curious' selection...As I bit into this fiery little item I was confused as to what exactly I was eating, so of course I looked it up: "......a blood orange center...in a pistachio crust, garnished with a mint leaf tempura." The wasabi was a given in the exterior, the orange was more difficult to decipher - citrus can make for a sharp taste, so when paired with an even sharper flavor, you're in for a battle of the senses. The tart is layered on a vanilla frangipane that, when sitting in the pistachio crust added a buttery element that heightened the tart. From an aesthetic standpoint, the tempura'd mint leaf was a delicate touch that added the 'pretty'.

Sea Salt Caramel Tart
Sea Salt Caramel - another 'classic' selection, this was my personal favorite of the four....with its chopped Macadamia nuts in a sweet and salty 'caramel'. The chocolate crust paled to the filling, but the blackberry added just the right burst of sweet to go with this melt-in-your-mouth tart. Their information claims this item has dried berries in the mix, but they weren't as discernible as the ever obvious picture-perfect topper.

So do I recommend this specialty tart shop? Well if you can't tell by now I'll just say it: absolutely! Whether you're looking to splurge on a tart to delight your taste buds or simply stimulate your eyes, this place is worth a stop. Even if it's only out of curiosity - talk to their friendly staff during their business hours - it will be difficult to leave without a purchase! Playing host to many elements, including those that haven't been seen for some time, the moderate price seems like nothing compared to the quality and taste you're getting with your chosen tart - you'll understand their slogan a bit more and why they are suitably described as "tarts unordinary."

Tip: Before you leave, take a brochures if you expect to remember what exactly you're about to eat as you walk away, drive away, or explain to your friends!

Früute
8951 Santa Monica Blvd.
Suite A
West Hollywood, CA 90069

(310) 786-9983
www.fruute.com


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