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La Casita Mexicana, Bell CA

Posted on | September 16, 2011 | 1 Comment

For my mom’s birthday this year, I picked (wait a minute… why am I picking?!) La Casita Mexicana. Oh, I know why. If I don’t pick, we’ll likely end up someplace close by, that we’ve been to already, and I know my mom likes trying new places. I guess me being in town makes my other family members a little bit more amenable to driving further/trying different stuff!

Anyway, since Seattle isn’t exactly, umm, known for it’s good Mexican food, I wanted to get Mexican while in LA. I’d heard this place was good, but had never been… probably because it’s all the way out in Bell. But off we went!

First of all, the place is NOT in the best part of town (safe enough during the day, though). The restaurant is also quite small, and a bit hot inside (well, at least the day we were there). No matter, cuz’ it’s all about the food, right?!

This is not exactly your typical Mexican food. If you’re expecting El Torito, think again. Dishes are heavily reliant on unique sauces.. namely mole and chile, and they are quite good. Here’s what we had:

For starters they bring you chicken tomato soup, which was an acceptable, if not good version.

Most of us had the lemonade with chia seeds. Good lemonade, with an interesting texture. Now, though, I’m wondering if I have a chia pet growing inside me!

One of their specialties is the chile en Nogada, so we gave it a try. Quite different than your everyday chile relleno, it’s sweet with quite a bit of cream sauce on it. Definitely different, and I liked it a lot.

I wanted to try one of the carne asada dishes, so we opted for one with chipotle and cactus on the side. The chipotle sauce was quite spicy! The steak, however, was quite tasty.

The three mole chicken flautas was one of my favorite dishes. The mole sauces were all subtly different.. I think I liked the basic, chocolate mole the best. Spicy, sweet, with just a touch of bitterness.

Another standout dish was the enmoladas with chicken and cheese. Much more than just your typical enchiladas, as you can see, they were absolutely smothered in that yummy mole sauce.

For dessert? We had to try the churros filled with Mexican caramel. Wow, were they sweet. Good, but I’m curious that Giada DeLaurentis said these were the best thing she ever ate?!

All in all, an enjoyable and fun meal. Definitely some different flavors and textures than your typical cheese laden Mexican food (which I love as well!). I’m not sure everyone in my family loved it, but I’d go back if I were around Bell!

4030 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201
(323) 773-1898
www.casitamex.com/home.html
La Casita Mexicana on Urbanspoon

Trip to NY State – upstate NY

Posted on | June 23, 2011 | 5 Comments

Part III of our recent trip to NY! We decided to get in the car and drive through upstate NY. Our journey started on a ferry to New London, CT. After disembarking, we were hungry for lunch, and ended up at a pizzeria called 2 Wives, which was surprisingly good! The pizza was molten hot, with a nice, crispy thin crust, tart sauce, and fresh, flavorful ingredients on top. Pizza in Connecticut. Who would’ve thunk?

45 Huntington St,  New London, CT 06320
(860) 447-9337
www.2wivespizza.com

2 Wives Brick Oven Pizza on Urbanspoon

Next, it was a drive through the rolling countrysides of Connecticut, then Massachussets, up to Saratoga Springs, NY. What beautiful country this is!

Here we arrived at Saratoga Springs. Thankfully it wasn’t during a horse race, so all was relatively calm in town. I’ve heard it can get quite crowded and crazy!

After some debate, we decided on Hattie’s for dinner. Apparently, the owner beat Bobby Flay in a fried chicken throwdown. So you KNOW we had to have some of that fried chicken! And no wonder they won. This fried chicken was amongst some of the best we’ve ever had. Crisp, juicy, and quite flavorful…

45 Phila St, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 584-4790

Hattie's on Urbanspoon

After our brief stay in Saratoga Springs, (and a not so memorable breakfast at the Inn at Saratoga Springs), we were off again towards the fingerlakes region; Ithaca.

Looks like the lake had risen a bit with all of the recent rainfall in NY!

For dinner the first night, we went out to a Tapas bar called Just a Taste. Turns out it’s one of the more popular restaurants in Ithaca, and rightfully so! The food was quite good.

Asparagus in brown butter, with garlic, pecans, and romano:

Really good! I LOVE asparagus, and this one had a nice blend of flavors and textures added to it.

Warm brie with canteloupe and crostini:

Probably my favorite dish of the night. Canteloupe and brie? A really, really delicious combination!

Fried arctic char with pickled onion butter and lemon dressed watercress:

Probably my least favorite of the night. Not bad; just a bit overly fishy for my liking…

116 N Aurora St, Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 277-9463

Just A Taste on Urbanspoon

There are some remarkably beautiful areas in and around Ithaca. We found a lovely path leading up to two waterfalls.

The view was worth the hike!

For lunch the next day, I convinced Adam we should try the Moosewood. One of the first vegetarian restaurants in the Nation; they also have one of the top selling vegetarian cookbooks, ever (which I am now a proud owner of!) Their menu constantly changes, and consists of many items that can be found in that cookbook. Although the food may not LOOK overly appetizing, trust me, both of these dishes were delicious!

I had a corn and chile casserole, topped with mild salsa. I could have eaten two portions of this dish!

Adam had a stuffed eggplant dish, which was also quite good, with plenty of interesting spices.

215 N Cayuga St, Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 273-9610
www.moosewoodrestaurant.com
Moosewood Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Our lodging in Ithaca was at the William Henry Miller Inn, a quaint bed and breakfast minutes from downtown Ithaca. Not only was the location super convenient, the place was wonderful, as was the host, Lynette.

Our breakfast included a delicious warm peach compote (dessert first? I like this place!)

Adam had the scrambled eggs with potatos, bacon, and some seriously delicious homeade focaccia:

I went with the banana french toast with a side of bacon. Yum!

In the evenings, Lynette leaves out a spread of various desserts. We had cookies, cheese, and a yummy orange cake!

303 N Aurora St, Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 256-4553
www.millerinn.com/

All in all, our vacation was spectacular! The weather was beautiful, the food was remarkable, and I can’t wait to go back to NY!

Trip to NY State – Long Island

Posted on | June 5, 2011 | No Comments

For the second phase of our New York trip, we headed out of the city towards Long Island. The weather was still gorgeous, as were some of the little towns we drove through. The beaches are quite different than on the West coast. Where’s the sand?! =D

The areas we saw were gorgeous, and I love the little lighthouses scattered about.

Our destination was the North Fork Inn in Southold. After hearing about Chef Gerry Hayden’s James Beard nomination, I thought we should try the restaurant. And heck, we may as well stay at the Inn too while we’re at it right?!

The building is basically an old, restored home. Nice, cozy dining room, with a very home-y feel to the place… and with a lot of class!

Thanks to my impeccable timing (sigh),  most of the staff (including Chef Hayden) were not there the night of our stay. Duh, that night happened to be the James Beard awards! It was fun, though, to root for Chef Hayden along with the staff that were there. They were streaming the awards while we were having dinner, and giving us updates!

As for the food? Well, if it was this good while the Chef was away, I wonder how good it must be when he’s there! Everything we had was simply incredible.

Our amuse bouche was chilled potato leek soup with chive oil. The soup smooth and well seasoned… and that chive oil really added a nice flavor!

Assortment of roasted baby beets with goat cheese, pistachios, and sherry-shallot dressing:

I not only love beets, but I love goat cheese… So this appetizer was a no brainer for me. Everything was incredibly fresh, the dressing was perfect, and the pistachios added a nice touch to this salad.

Block Island fluke crudo, with crispy ginger cracklings, ruby red grapefruit, cilantro shoots, and olive oil:
Adam’s appetizer was just as good. The fish was incredibly fresh and tender, and the grapefruit added a refreshing element.

Pan seared Long Island duck breast, with ramps, baby carrots, French green lentils, and bacon jus:

We decided to get the most ‘local’ dishes we could, so Adam ordered the Long Island duck. Just about the freshest, most delicious duck either of us has ever had!

Sauteed Maryland soft shell crabs, with ten spring vegetables, cranberry beans, steamed mussels, and olive oil:

My choice was the soft shell crab, which had just come into season. These were tender and delicate, and especially flavorful in the middle! I liked the addition of mussels and cranberries. SO good.

For dessert, we ordered the chocolate souffle tart with espresso ice cream, which was chocolate heaven!

We also ordered the rose poached rhubarb with ginger ice cream. I love rhubarb, and this dessert was delicious… I just wish there’d been more rhubarb in it!

Somehow we ended up with two additional desserts?
The coconut ice cream and passion fruit sorbet were both quite good- and I’m a sucker for tapioca.


We had both eyed the donuts on the menu, but decided on other desserts…. but were given the donuts anyway. We tried a donut each, then smartly saved the rest for our ferry trip the next day!


Let me tell you, it was NICE to finish a long, leisurely, and large meal, plus wine, and be able to just walk upstairs to our cozy room afterwards. Now that’s how to enjoy a good meal!!

The next morning we were the only guests at breakfast (the Inn consists of only a few rooms). So we had this lovely veggie frittata, plus pastries, juice, etc. Yum!

Highly recommend the North Fork Inn, not only for dinner, but to stay at. Although we had a variety of completely different types of food throughout our trip, I think this meal was the best overall.

Everyone at the Inn was incredibly nice and accommodating. Just wish they’d won that James Beard award… Maybe next year!

57225 Rt, 25, Southold, NY 11971
(631) 765-0177

North Fork Table & Inn on Urbanspoon

Trip to NY State – NYC

Posted on | May 16, 2011 | 2 Comments

For a long overdue vacation this year, we decided on a trip to New York. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and, apart from a couple of delays (US Airways… grrr), the trip went without a hitch. 3 days in NY City, 1 day on Long Island, and 2 days trekking through upstate New York. What a tiring, but fun vacation! And what remarkable food! And you know I photographed EVERYTHING that we ate. Here’s some highlights from our trip:

I had a loooonnnng list of places I wanted to go to while in the city. One that (thankfully!) made the cut was Katz’s Deli. It was morning, but I insisted on having pastrami, which was tender, tasty, and ridiculously good. The owner came out to chat with us briefly. What a great place!

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

Being a West-coaster, it took me awhile to get used to the disproportionate amount of taxis vs. cars in the city…

Another memorable breakfast? Hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya. We went for the recession special- $4.45 for two hot dogs and papaya juice. Now that’s a breakfast! Oh, and I get the whole ‘crispy skin’ hot dog thing now. I will never eat a soggy hot dog again…


Gray's Papaya (UWS) on Urbanspoon

We couldn’t very well go to NYC without seeing a show, right?! After much thought, and considering what a huge South Park fan Adam is, I decided The Book of Mormon might be a good choice. I have no idea how I was able to score tickets as easily as I did. If you’re in NYC, go see it. Great cast, and funny as hell. We laughed so hard, we cried!

I couldn’t leave NYC without trying one of the supposedly best Ramen-yas, could I?! Ippudo was good. I liked the dollop of miso added to the tonkatsu ramen… very nice touch. But, sorry NY… I’m still a Southbay LA ramen girl!


Ippudo on Urbanspoon

Another non negotiable? A Yankee’s game. Adam and I both LOVE the Yankees (even though I equally love the Dodgers). The new stadium is beautiful. But they lost to the KC Royals! Didn’t Jeter realize I was in town and watching?!

For our one Michelin 3 star restaurant, I picked Jean Georges. Mainly because A) I couldn’t secure a reservation at Per Se, and B) Le Bernardin was iffy, with Adam’s shellfish allergy and all. I’m not disappointed that we ended up at JG’s. The food was excellent, as was the setting and the service.

Parmesan risotto with mushroom and herbs:

Foie gras brulee, with pineapple meyer lemon jam:

Sauteed veal scallopine, Flying Pig ham, with mushrooms and lavender:

Red snapper crusted with nuts and seeds, with a sweet and sour jus: Probably the best red snapper I’ve ever had!


Jean-Georges on Urbanspoon

Here’s a view of NYC from the Empire State Building. Chilly, but breathtaking!

We couldn’t leave NYC without trying at least one of David Chang’s restaurants. It was a tough choice, but I picked Momofuku Ssam. I liked the casual feel of the eatery, and of course, the food was excellent!

Their famous steamed pork buns, with hoisin, cucumber, and scallions. Quite tasty!

The duck sandwich, with spicy mayo, lettuce, and peppadews. Another incredibly flavorful dish!

We woefully chose to order the beef noodle soup sans tripe. I think if anyone could make tripe palatable to us, it would be Chef Chang. Oh well. Maybe next time!

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

Then… on to dessert, next door… Momofuku Milk Bar!

I admit, I’ve tried making a crack pie before, and while it was good, I grossly overcooked it. This one was much softer, and still stupidly buttery and sweet!

I hate to admit it, but Adam chose the better dessert. This candy bar pie is to DIE for. Caramel, peanut butter, and pretzels on a chocolate crust. How can you go wrong?!  We also ordered several of their cookies… sadly, the last of which we ate yesterday. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and order some online to get my fix!

Momofuku Milk Bar (Midtown) on Urbanspoon

Adam and Kristi go to White Castle!

Okay, White Castle was a last minute addition. We’d both had the frozen versions before, but they really are better fresh! I actually preferred the cheeseburger over the plain burger.

White Castle on Urbanspoon

It’s funny… the only time during our trip that the skies were gray was when we went to visit Ground Zero. It was nice to see so much going on in the area, with the mass amount of construction taking place. Still, it had a powerful, almost eerie feel to it…

Mottanai Ramen, Gardena, CA

Posted on | April 22, 2011 | 1 Comment

I’m astounded at not only the amount of existing ramen-yas in the Southbay, but the amount that continue to open up! Come on, how about some new ramen places in Seattle?!

Anyway, at least I still come to LA often enough to get my ramen fix on occasion. This time, it was Mottanai, a new one near Marukai on Redondo Beach Blvd. As usual, I ordered the tonkatsu ramen. This one came with medium width noodles, a nice thick slice of tonkatsu, and some very oily, rich, but borderline overly salty broth. Good, and enough to satisfy my ramen fix!

Cost: $
1630 W Redondo Beach Blvd., Ste 9, Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 538-3250

Mottanai Ramen on Urbanspoon

Parks BBQ, Los Angeles, CA

Posted on | March 17, 2011 | No Comments

Park’s is one of those places that I’d been meaning to go to for quite a long time.. and I finally got to it a couple of weeks ago. My family loves Korean bbq, so we had high hopes that Park’s would be incredible.

We started off well, with some tasty banchans. The kimchee was quite good, as were the shredded potatoes. The least popular at our table was probably the tiny fishes, as they were.. well.. quite fishy, and a bit overly chewy.

We ordered the following items: Ggot sal, prime beef rib eye steak, bulgogi, galbi, marinated shrimp, and mushrooms:

Another item we ordered was the veggie omelette. This was probably the best version of this dish I’ve had; fresh, with plenty of veggies, and tons of flavor.

Overall, I was impressed; the quality of the meat was quite good, everything was fresh, and the marinated meats were well seasoned. The only reasons I might not come back? The price, which is much higher than most Korean bbq restaurants in the Southbay, and the location, which is a bit far from where my family lives. If I happened to be in the area, and was craving Korean bbq, I’d likely return.

Cost: $$$
955 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 380-1717
www.parksbbq.com

Park's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Enoteca San Marco

Posted on | February 19, 2011 | 3 Comments

It had been quite awhile since my last visit to Enoteca San Marco, but I went with my family recently after my brother won a bit of money on slots, and had some dining credit at the Venetian, and said he’d treat for dinner. Score! I suggested Enoteca, and off we went.

As my dad and one of my brothers are a bit, well.. picky, I tried to pick the least offensive cheeses for our cheese selection. The burrata was my favorite; creamy, savory, and incredibly fresh. The accompaniments were apricot and black cherry compotes, and honey.

Four our meats, we had the salumi and prosciutto. Both excellent.

After getting the fried squash blossoms at Mozza in LA, I had to order them here as well. Simply delicious. My dad, unfortunately, wasn’t a fan. He kept saying “I didn’t like the fried okra”. Sigh.

A delicious salad with plenty of meat and cheese. How can you go wrong?

For our pasta, we picked the sausage and escarole, with spaghetti. The pasta was cooked perfect, and that sauce was to die for.

For our pizza, we ordered one with sausage and bell peppers. Quite flavorful, with a nice, crisp crust.

For dessert, we went with a trio of blueberry sorbet, chocolate, and olive oil ice cream. My favorite, hands down? The olive oil ice cream. Exceptionally creamy, with a bit of savory flavor to it. I gotta find a recipe for this!

Delicious, as usual, and still my favorite Batali restaraunt!

Cost: $$
Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las  Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 677-3390

Enoteca San Marco (Venetian) on Urbanspoon

Yamadaya Ramen, Torrance, CA

Posted on | January 30, 2011 | 3 Comments

Another ramen review? Of course! Ever since I moved to Seattle, I’ve been craving good ramen even more than when I lived in Las Vegas. Surprisingly, there really aren’t very many ramen places out here, and the best we’ve found still pales in comparison to the ‘just okay’ places in LA. Yamadaya is a newer place, located in an unassuming strip mall in Torrance. Small, with a limited menu. Perfect for a ramen-ya.

I had the tonkatsu shoyu ramen, which comes with thin noodles, sliced pork, egg, and seaweed. The noodles were semi-firm, and the broth was quite good, served nice and hot, and with plenty of flavor.

We also ordered the chicken karaage, which was quite flavorful, and not overly greasy, which I appreciate!

Yamadaya is another good spot amongst a slew of them in LA’s southbay area…

Cost: $
3118 W. 182nd St., Torrance, CA 90504
(310) 380-5555
www.ramen-yamadaya.com

Yamada-ya Ramen on Urbanspoon

Orchids Garden

Posted on | January 28, 2011 | No Comments

I’d been meaning to try Orchids Garden’s dim sum for quite awhile, and after doing some car shopping recently, we stopped in for dinner. It was a quiet night, and the carts seemed to come out one at a time, if that. We weren’t starving, though, so it wasn’t a big deal. We ordered char shiu baos, shu mai, Chinese broccoli, and my favorite, sesame balls! These were actually shaped more like footballs, but were quite good; chewy, sweet, and not overly greasy.

Everything was pretty fresh, although a few of the items weren’t as hot as I would have liked. Good dim sum, but not quite as good as Chang’s, in my opinion.

Cost: $$
5485 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 631-3839

Orchids Garden on Urbanspoon

Terrace Pointe Cafe

Posted on | December 27, 2010 | No Comments

For breakfast the day before my brother left, he wanted to go to the Terrace Pointe Cafe, as he’d had the corned beef hash here and loved it. Since there were 5 of us, we decided to order a few items and share. The bacon avocado omelette shown above was excellent, as were the accompanying home fries.

Shown below is the corned beef hash, with plenty of big chunks of corned beef, and again, those home fries mixed in. Quite a nice and hearty version of the dish!

Our third dish was the fried chicken and waffles. A decent version, with something like chicken cutlets over soft waffles. What made this dish stand out for us, though, was that maple syrup infused with pepper. Sweet, with a kick to it. Absolutely delicious!

A bit of a pricey place for breakfast, but everything was quite good, fresh, and the service was good.

Cost: $$
Wynn Hotel
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 770-3463

Terrace Point Café (Wynn) on Urbanspoon

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