October 30, 2010 § 2 Comments
Last night, my friends and I were able to partake in a rare culinary event called Ludo Bites. Chef Ludo Lefebvre opens little “pop-up” restaurants once a year and only serves for a couple weeks. My friend Alberto kept me notified when reservations would open online. And we waited til the clock hit 5 pm, a refreshed for about 40 minutes until Alberto was victorious, and nabbed us a Friday night booking at 9:15. We really didn’t care when we got in, as long as we could eat some of Chef Lefebvre’s food.
The restaurant was packed, and the energy was high and I, shockingly, was the last to arrive. When I sat down, we collectively decided our best strategy was to order one of everything on the menu and share it around the table. We doubled up on a few things that were soupy or just sounded delicious. Most of us ordered the suggested “COQtails” which included a Yuzu tequila martini and Mexican mojito.
We had a great time. Yes, I broke my vegetarian-ish-ism for a night. But I can safely say, I will happily never eat foie gras again. I had one bite of steak, and I personally thought they went overboard with the whiskey. It just tasted like eating alcohol. The rest fit in nicely with my pescatarian diet. The Oriental mussels were my favorite. The flavor was insane. If you live in LA, and ever get a chance to check out Chef Lefevbvre’s food, I recommend it.
October 24, 2010 § 2 Comments
October 13, 2010 § 4 Comments
For the past two weeks, there has been a citywide dining event in Los Angeles called DineLA, where participating restaurants have offered 3 course meals for fairly discounted prices. My friends and I have been trying to take advantage as much as we can and use it as an excuse to try some new restaurants. We have hit up 4 places so far, and they have all been pretty great.
First up was Fraiche in Culver City. I’d say my appetizer of roasted red peppers with burrata cheese and balsamic was the best part, as well as my friends’ choice of butterscotch pot de creme for dessert. At the end of dessert, Weird Al Yankovich walked into the restaurant. I love LA.
Next up was K-ZO, also in Culver City. When we arrived, since we made a reservation, we got seated in this little beaded off section which was sort of neat. I ordered the kobe beef bento box and my friend Alberto ordered the udon noodle soup. I liked this place a bit more than the first one.
Third place we went was Il Fornaio in Manhattan Beach. There are a few of these all over Southern California and even Vegas I think? It’s fairly decent Italian food, and our waiter was sort of funny…. So it was pretty good. Dessert wins out for best course here.
Our final stop (so far) has been Akasha in Culver City. This was our first dinner out. Oh man, this place was so awesome. The wine was good, the food was awesome, and the ambiance and live jazz music was the cherry on top. We all had a great dinner, and pretty much passed our food around the table the whole time. I’m so glad my friends love to eat!
October 4, 2010 § 2 Comments
Well I’ve been back for 3 days now and already so much has happened. Every time I come home, I feel like I never left.
As usual, I didn’t sleep at all on the flight home, so when I arrived in LA at 6:45 am, it was bedtime according to my body clock. I struggled as much as I could to stay up, but I succumbed to a small nap in the afternoon. Luckily, I still ended up sleeping about 12 hours that night, and I think I’ve sort of beat the jetlag already.
Last night my family threw a little welcome home party for me. My mom and I decided to cater the event, and everything turned out wonderful. The menu included guacamole, corn salsa, spinach and artichoke dip, grilled chicken and shrimp, cheddar chive biscuits, roasted vegetables, grilled corn, and a fresh berry tart. Needless to say we were cooking all day long to prepare. I have to say the tart was the hit of the party. I borrowed the recipe from Paula Deen and thought I’d share it with you all to enjoy. Pretty simple, and unbelievably delicious.
Fresh Fruit Tart:
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and sliced
- 1 (8-ounce) package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
- 1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350.
For the crust: In a food processor, combine the confectioners’ sugar, flour, and butter, and process until the mixture forms a ball. I didn’t have a food processor, so I had to mix by hand and add a tablespoon of water. With your fingers, press the dough into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, taking care to push the crust into the indentations in the sides. Pat until the crust is even. She says to bake for 10 to 12 minutes, but I had to bake it quite a bit longer than that (I may have had it on a lower rack). Keep an eye on it until very lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
For the filling and topping: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Spread over the cooled crust. Cut your strawberries in half and arrange the fruit however you like. This is the fun creative part of the dish!
For the glaze: Combine the limeade, cornstarch, lime juice, and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until clear and thick, about 2 minutes. Let cool. With a pastry brush, glaze the entire tart. You will not use all of the glaze.
Keep the tart in the refrigerator. Remove about 15 minutes before serving.
Enjoy a few photos of food I’ve taken since I arrived back!
Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen.
September 12, 2010 § 1 Comment
My time living in the Southern hemisphere is quickly coming to an end. In a few weeks I’ll be heading back to the US, and moving to the beautiful and very foodie friendly city of San Francisco. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Before I go, I thought I’d recap some of the good eats and great restaurants I encountered in my travels.
First stop: Wellington!
There are many hidden culinary delites to be found in Wellington. The coffee culture alone is worth a trip. I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker in the states because it tends to have a strong effect on me, but coffee down under is OUT OF CONTROL. One flat white, and I’m wide awake for days. But again, I’m very sensitive to it’s powers. Anyhoo, let’s get down to business…
It’s about a 20 minute drive out of Wellington proper, into the Lower Hutt, but it is well worth it. As one of the many Americans dying for a taste of home, this authentic, family run Mexican restaurant was such a treat! Andreas, the owner, is as friendly and colorful as they come, and he will make sure your drink is never empty. They have a simple menu of burritos, taco, tamales, and quesadillas. Everything on the menu is worth a shot. My favorite are the steak tacos and homemade chips and guacamole!
Sweet Mother’s Kitchen
Boy was this a fantastic find. It’s in the heart of Wellington surrounded by movie theaters, bars, and shops. It’s the only place in town that I found with some real down-home Southern cooking. They specialize in New Orleans and Mexican dishes. It’s probably the best burrito you can get in town, and the fried chicken, served with gravy and dirty rice was an indulgence I may have partaken in one too many times. It’s also just a great vibe inside. The walls are covered in colorful pictures, paper decorations, and various quirky items. This is a must see (and eat) if you ever make it out that way.
For finer, upscale dining, I recommend Matterhorn which is located on artsy Cuba Street. Soft dim lighting, dark wood, and modern ski lodge accents make this place a cool, calm, and sexy environment to have a nice dinner, or even just a few after work drinks. The unique cocktails are worth a trip alone. On my last visit, I had a fillet with oxtail and bone marrow butter. Sounds interesting I know, but it was a taste sensation. Wow, I really just said taste sensation.
Next stop, Queenstown, NZ…
Burgers have been a huge thing I have missed from the states. Southern California especially makes an amazing cheeseburger, so I was really hankering for one. I was pretty unimpressed with most burgers in Wellington, but when I popped down to the South Island for a long weekend in Queenstown, I was told to go check out Ferg Burger. It’s a quirky little joint in the middle of town with colorfully named menu items like The Cod Father, Sweet Bambi, and the Bun Laden. As you can see in the picture, the burgers are HUGE! So if you aren’t ready to eat half your weight in burger, try splitting one. The fries and homemade onions rings are very tasty as well.
The Cow may be tucked into an alleyway in Queenstown, but luckily any cab driver will know where to take you. It is an institution in this small ski town and a unique dining experience. The decor is almost like a medieval pub with its stone walls and wooden beams. They serve delicious pizza, pasta, and homemade garlic bread. Now we may have been a little bit under the influence when we ate there, but we all swear that we ate the greatest garlic bread we had ever had in our lives that night. So, yeah… 5 intoxicated people agree: Good eats.
And now we move on to Sydney….
When I got to Sydney, I knew I would have a bit more options in terms of dining. I immediately started doing some research, and looked up Sydney’s Top Pizza. On multiple sites I came across Lucio Pizzeria. This place is hidden in a small neighborhood off of Oxford street, but was worth the search. It’s a compact little restaurant with a wood-burning oven and a patio that seats about 40 people, even though it should only really fit about 25. We ordered the signature item, The Lucio. It’s half margarita pizza, and they fold the other side in half into a calzone filled with ricotta and ham. It’s pretty much a party in your mouth. I can honestly say it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. This is an imperative meal to have on a trip to Sydney.
This is an upscale restaurant located in Circular Quay overlooking the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. If the view wasn’t enough, the decor is so beautiful and modern and classy. Dark wood on the walls, everything candlelit, and big glass windows overlooking the bay. We were seated out on the patio, where they conveniently have blankets at every seat so you won’t get too cold. I think only the girls were bold (and cold) enough to actually wear the blankets at the table. The menu is the usual upscale fare of delicious seafood entrees, and mains that include gnocci, duck, pork belly, beef tenderloin, prawns, etc. They also had a great cocktail menu. We all had the Circular Quay Iced Tea, a signature take on the Long Island Iced Tea. Needless to say, it totes got me tipsy. The view was great, the food was was great, and boy is that place romantic. Fellas, take your ladies their, pronto.
I just recently ate at this charming Italian restaurant. They have a large long table going through the whole restaurant that extends all the way to the open kitchen in the back. The menu can only be found on a chalkboard on the wall, and written entirely in Italian. After trying to listen to the waiter explain the entire menu to me in broken English, I picked out the keyword “pork” and went with that. It was beautiful pork chop served over apples and celeriac and some sort of leafy green. Ohhhh it was so awesome. We were all very happy with our meals, and the service was really friendly.
Does anyone have any awesome restaurant recommendations before I leave Sydney??