Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Green Pea Mash

Green veggies can be a bit boring, there I said it. There are so many options out there, but making it fun, making it simple, and making it fit into your diet is the challenge. The below recipe is a fast and easy side that you can make instead of the mashed potato standby. Despite its healthy 'tone,' people love this one!

Green Pea Mash

Prep Time: 10 minutes
1 Serving

2/3 Cup Green Peas (Fresh or Frozen)
1 Clove Garlic
1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cook the peas 3-5 minutes on medium heat in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of boiling water until tender. Drain water and place in a food processor or blender. Puree peas with garlic, oil, and add seasonings to taste (from salt & pepper to chili flakes). Serve warm. 

Total time: 10 minutes or less

Nutrition Info (1 serving)
Calories: 157, Fat: 7.2g, Sat. Fat: 1g, Cholest.: 0mg, Sodium: 3.7mg, Carb.: 17.7g, Fiber: 5.9g, Sugars: 6.4g, Protein: 5.9g
Monday, June 27, 2011

Maison Du Pain

Los Angeles, CA. What's better than a great pastry? Perhaps many great pastries in a great local bakery. This little shop located in mid-Los Angeles offers doughy sweets and some scrumptious breakfast fare. Open about 7 years now, one of the first thoughts is "why this particular spot?" The neighborhood surrounding the store is a blend of auto body repair and corner stores, yet it didn't really seem to matter to its customers, as local after local lined the doorway on this early morning.
Display Case
The pastries looked and smelled tasty in and out of their case.  Waiting in line, you could  see the steam rising from their freshly baked quiche, resting on the counter and teasing you with its aroma. The items were arranged beautifully to showcase their morning assortment of pastries.

Cinnamon Roll
Cinnamon Roll - The dough was light, buttery, sweet, flaky, soft....this shop's take on the  breakfast delight was different than what you may be used to but delicious all the same. The dough was  similar to a croissant, with a slight sweet and light glaze for that melt-in-your mouth combination.  Unexpected, but brilliant use of subtle flavoring to make this treat hit home.
Apricot Danish
Apricot Danish - Not generally the go-to danish of the fruit selections, but wow was this good.  As with the cinnamon roll, the dough had a light sweetness to it, but remained light in its overall finish. Flaky, buttery, and mouthwatering with each continued bite. Worth a try with that morning cup of coffee.

This little shop had a rounded selection of pastry sweets and savory breakfast bites, the owners were personable and  delightful to their guests, and you couldn't help but sit, stop, and enjoy. Closed on Sundays and Mondays, but open the rest of the week, take a drive and give this place a try for your start-of-the-day sweet, flaky eats.

Maison Du Pain
5373 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 934-5858
Friday, June 24, 2011

Petite Provence

Portland, OR. Those who know me can tell you that my favorite pastry obsession as of late is the 'cheese danish.' Although simple in concept - lightly sweetened bread with a sweet cream cheese filling - it seems quite difficult to find, despite the verbal recommendations and online search engines stating otherwise. Where can I find one that will make me close my eyes and let out that sigh of happiness? Well, one such place is Petite Provence, in Portland, OR.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Brioche
On an inconsistently sunny day in the city, a friend and I woke up with the inkling for a good pastry. After nearly a week of "living" as a local, I had asked around enough to get consistently pointed in the direction of this eatery.  Not surprising, enough of a French food following has been established over its 15 years of business, and the eatery now boasts 4 successful locations. Even more unique, is that each location caters their menu to local palette and community vibe, with the bulk of the items remaining similar to its sister locations.

The Division bistro has ample indoor seating, with only a few tables outside. A bit tight on the seating for larger groups, I'd recommend cozying up with a friend or two to some good eats, sweet treats, and great conversation.  The menu covers breakfast and brunch favorites (berry this and french toast that) but my focus was their bakery. Throughout my week I kept hearing about their pastry items, and having explored through several pastry shops, I couldn't wait to see what options I'd come across in this bakery. 

Croissants, danish, rolls, buns...baked bundles of gluttony sitting before me and I found it...the holy grail of sweet cheese pastries: a Chocolate Cream Cheese Brioche!! My eyes certainly widened and the French server didn't even have to ask before grabbing the wax paper and putting it in a bag. After surveying a few of the other options, I decided on a Walnut Bun and a Cheese Danish Croissant to indulge on with a cup of coffee at another local spot.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Brioche
Chocolate Cream Cheese Brioche - No HEATING NECESSARY. Rare that I can say that. A thin chocolate layer baked into the top of the brioche, soft in flavor. Brioche subtly sweet, soft to the bite, fluffy in feel. Cream filling sweetened to perfection and easily 1" in depth from the top of the brioche. Overall, exactly what I needed and what I've been searching for...the challenge will be to find something similar in a local venue...and I'm determined.

Walnut Bun
Walnut Bun - Crispy exterior reminiscent to a glazed croissant with an enjoyable sugar swirl and generous topping of walnuts. The pastry was flaky and readily edible. Heated in a toaster oven, this pastry would make for a great alternative to the traditional cinnamon bun as a morning eat. 

Cheese Danish Croissant

Cheese Danish Croissant - Similar to the brioche, a generous portion of sweet cream cheese filling layered nicely in the center of this flaky and buttery pastry. Although the other was preferred, this was a  close second to my newly discovered favorite cheese pastry.

As we enjoyed each bite, mutually sharing in the joys of eating, my friend nodded in approval at the find. If I could travel 900+ miles on the regular for a great cheese pastry, I would. Portland had a surprising number of great eats with only the occasional mediocre fare as I ate my way through the city. 

With already living in a city of its very own delicious food options, I'm even more determined to find this particular type of pastry shop or specialty patisserie. There's one in almost every city, right? I'll keep you posted!

Petite Provence
4834 SE Division
Portland, OR 97206
Monday, June 20, 2011

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Cafe


Palm Desert, CA. My time in the desert is often a solitary time to disconnect from my hectic life in L.A. and focus on my projects. When I go out there, the first place I go to is Trader Joe's to stock up on all my culinary needs for the week. I've been there so many times, and yet until recently I never even noticed there were a bunch of eateries in the shopping center.

On my most recent visit I decided to look up online where I could find the best patisserie in the desert. Low and behold, I learned of Clementine Patisserie Boulangerie, and discovered it was in the shopping center I was most familiar with; right next door to the store I frequent the most in all of the Coachella Valley.

It's funny how sometimes things are right under your nose and you don't even notice. I think part of it, at least for Angelinos, is that we drive everywhere, always focused on getting from point A to point B. In fact the only time we seem to ever look around is when we're looking for a parking spot.

Tea Cakes
I am absolutely guilty of having tunnel vision. I drive down the same roads, bike through the same paths, and walk along the same streets, year after year, and routinely don't notice all the wonderful restaurants around me. Often I am dumbfounded when I discover a new eatery online or get recommended one that is only blocks away from where I live. Oh well. I guess it's better to be late to the party than never, so long as I make it before they run out of cake, or in this case a pastry.

Upon discovery of the place, I hurried over there the first moment I could with my friend. He was in the mood for something savory, but I politely told him to "shut it" as nothing comes in between a pastry and me.

When we entered the shop and escaped the blazing heat, it was like jumping across the pond to a cozy little patisserie in Paris. The owners were behind the counter bringing out fresh baked goods and helping customers decided on their purchases. I browsed the display and wrestled with what to order. Everything looked like bites of heaven.

Cheese Croissant
We settled upon the cheese croissant and a blueberry teacake. The croissant was very subtlety sweet. The edges were crispy, while the inside was doughy and light. The cheese filling had a delicate balance of zest and sugar. The teacake was even better. It was incredibly moist and rich. It was sweeter than the croissant, but still nowhere near being overpowering or saccharine sweet. I was elated with our purchases. The owner then came out and offered us a slice of the bread pudding, an item that I would not order on my own. The bread pudding blew the first two items out of the water. It was spongy, had a smooth vanilla flavor, and almost savory compared to the teacake. That is not the texture nor the taste I would normally want in my baked goods, and yet it all worked very well.

Blueberry Tea Cake
The items are a little pricey, and some, like the cupcakes from Over the Rainbow, are not made in house, but overall it is well worth the visit. While all three items I sampled were phenomenal, what I was most impressed with were the owners and how cordial and engaged they were with us and their other patrons. The atmosphere was so welcoming I really just wanted to stay there.

Afterwards my friend noticed one of the owners in Trader Joe's and joked that they just purchased their baked goods from Trader Joes's, sprinkled a little powdered sugar on the confections, and then sold them for a hefty price. I laughed at the notion, and don't doubt some bakeries have some rather dubious practices, but I assured him that there was no way what we had at Clementine came from a box.

I plan on taking all my friends and family here and trying every item on the menu. This will be one of my must stops, besides Benny's Bagels for the French toast bagel and Birba for the French Lemonade, when I go out to the desert. I am starting to detect a "French" pattern. Perhaps my next quest will be to find the best French fries in the Coachella Valley. I guess I should grab my running shoes and starting looking around.

Clementine Patisserie Boulangerie 

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Cafe72990 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 834-8814
Friday, June 17, 2011

The Observatory

Portland, OR. It's rare that I come across a place that wows me from all angles, and yet this place seemed to come close, quite effortlessly. Where were we going? A new American eatery in an unsuspecting area of Southeast Portland.

Oregano Fry Bread
The day had been beautiful and the sunset even more so, but the romantic glow didn't quite catch on in this odd neighborhood. Utility shops and jacuzzi specialities nearby, were we mistaken? With its uniquely decorated interior, humorous staff, and angled seating (...fault of the landscape), we were certainly at the right place.

I actually came here with friends after having heard about it from two different recommenders. Fellow lovers of food and taste alike, they were spouting enough positive remarks that I needed to give it a go. My friends and I sat on their outside table, lining the street, but on a quiet Sunday, traffic didn't bother.

The server made a few recommendations, be it from our confused expressions or hesitancy over the menu, which guided us to success. One such suggestion included the Oregano Fry Bread - lightly fried, puffs of dough that came with a basil crème fraiche and tomato puree side for dipping. Simple and delicious. A little trick? The pieces are hollow, so play an ideal host to a heavy pour of dipping sauce inside the bread.

Other items on our menu included:

Apple & Beet Salad
Apple & Beet Salad: The salad was full, flavorful, and...well it was full of beets, apples, and walnuts with a sherry vinaigrette. Let's just say that the rest of the week wasn't the same when other beet salads were on the menu.
Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Oven-Roasted Pork TenderloinThe tenderloin was tender and paired nicely with an apple themed sauce, polenta cakes, and greens.
Four Horsemen Pulled Pork Sandwich
Four Horsemen Pulled Pork Sandwich: The sandwich was received server-suggestion-style: toasted ciabatta on the side, and pulled pork in a bowl topped with creamy slaw and sided with sweet potato fries. Great recommendation, tender, flavorful, and the bread was ideal for dipping into the concoction.

If I lived in Portland, I would be a regular. After our meal my friends and I sat full, content, and with no room for dessert. With the overall low-cost and delicious experience, we left a happy bunch!

The Observatory
8115 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97215
Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Salmon Cakes


Sometimes I just miss the taste of butter. Why not make something where I can use that taste to my advantage? This little high-protein concoction is an adaptation of the popular crab cakes that people love, just seemingly simpler to make. I tend to spice up my dishes with a little cayenne or chipotle, but if you're making this dish for one, the spice additions are individually endless!

Salmon Cakes w/Tartar Sauce
Prep Time: Less than 5 minutes
3 Pieces

3/4 Cup Alaskan Pink Salmon (canned)
1 Egg
2 Tsp Capers
1 Tbsp Butter, Unsalted

1 Tbsp Light Mayonaise 
2 Tbsp Greek Yogurt
1 Tsp Capers

For Cakes: Mix salmon, egg, and capers together. Add preferred spices to taste (dash of salt, some chipotle works just fine). Form into three palm-sized patties and pack tightly to release moisture. In small skillet, cook salmon cakes on either side until golden brown and fork comes out dry. 

Cook time: 10-12 minutes on medium to high heat, until golden brown.

For Sauce: Mix mayonnaise and greek yogurt together. Crush capers and fold into yogurt mixture.

Nutrition Info: Salmon Cakes (3 pieces)
Calories: 360, Fat: 19.8g, Sat. Fat: 8.9g, Cholest.: 302.5mg, Sodium: 454.4mg, Carb.: .7g, Fiber 0g, Sugars: 0.6g, Protein: 45.8g

Nutrition Info: Tartar Sauce (3 Tbsp)

Calories: 65, Fat: 4.9g, Sat. Fat: 0.8g, Cholest.: 5.3mg, Sodium: 233.7mg, Carb.: 2.2g, Fiber 0g, Sugars: 1.4g, Protein: 3g
Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sweet Rose Creamery

Santa Monica, CA. Ice Cream is my favorite dessert. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day, and I would if it didn't make me get fat. Due to my insatiable appetite for this culinary delight, I have tried countless ice cream parlors, shops, trucks, franchises, and cartons from the grocery store. It doesn't take much to satisfy me when it comes to ice cream, since I love it so much, but it takes a lot to wow me. Sweet Rose Creamery wowed me with the very first lick.

Salted Caramel with Sea Salt
What makes this place so great is that they make everything from the ice cream and cones to the sauces and toppings there in the store every day from scratch. They also use all organic ingredients to make their ice creams. This sort of quality and effort put into their confections really do make a huge difference, and their prices, while slightly higher, were fairly reasonable considering how much attention goes into the product.

The staff was very friendly and allowed me to sample as many flavors as I wanted. They serve the samples on real spoons, which was suitable for the premium ice cream they offer. A dinky plastic spoon just wouldn't fit in this place. I was blown away by how much flavor was packed into each ice cream. The flavors I sampled were consistently strong, without ever being too overpowering or sweet. The Cafe Luxxe Coffee had a very rich coffee flavor, the mint and chip tasted like a fresh brewed mint tea with chocolate, and the blueberry muffin tasted liked, well, a blueberry muffin.

My favorite flavor was the the salted carmel. I order a single scoop in a waffle cone. The scoop was very generous and they finished it off with a dash of sea salt. The waffle cone was very brittle and delicious. The combination of sweet, savory, and cream was pure elation. Rarely has my palate been so satisfied. The five minutes I spent enjoying my ice cream were five minutes of absolute nirvana.

This place has quality ice cream, and I look forward to being a regular here.

Sweet Rose Creamery
Brentwood Country Mart
225 26th Street, Suite 51
Santa Monica, CA 90402
(310) 260-2663

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