Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Espresso Ice Cream

Ever since I read a post on Chocolate & Zucchini about making ice cream and sorbets I've been on a quest to dig out my Ice Cream maker from the crevices of some cabinet. This is where all me appliances end up as they lose there newness luster, or I move on to the next new gadget.

So I found this great recipe for espresso ice cream in Bon Appetit magazine. I'll post the official recipe later as I am still searching for what issue I dug this up from.

This recipe called for making a custard first, I have to admit that the ice cream tastes the best when a warm custard is made first. But it's a lot of work.

You'll need 6 egg yokes that need to be tempered with a hot milk and sugar mixture. Then once the eggs are incorporated you strain the liquid and then add in the instant espresso powder. The first attempt, yes I had to do it more than once, I ended up with scrambled eggs. Aaargh! Thankfully I had convinced SB to buy 2 cartons of eggs because the first and last time I attempted a creme anglaise sauce I managed to make flavored scrambled eggs. So my chance of this happening again were great. So at 9PM I started all over again. This time when mixing the eggs I let the milk mixture slight cool and then exercised much patience, which I greatly lack, by slowly incorporating the milk 1/3 cup at a time and mixing. Perfecto.

After straining the liquid and mixing in the expresso powder I let the mixture cool in the refrigerator overnight, it was late by this time. Next day I followed my ice cream machines instructions and came out with a creamy mocha colored ice cream speckled with sxpresso. YUMMY. I transferred to a container and put it in the freezer overnight.
Just before serving I chopped up some dark chocolate covered espresso beans (from Trader Joes) and mixed them in the ice cream. I served the ice cream with a thin waffle butter crisp cookie I found at my local market, Jules Destrooper cookies, delish.

This was a lot of work but worth the effort as we all enjoyed this homemade espresso ice cream with much delight.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Abott Kinney Festival

This has to be one of the most eclectic street festivals in L.A. In the past 14 years this festival has literally outgrown this 1 mile strip of Venice. I remember back in 1993 going to this festival and there were maybe 10 booths and a few small bands, which consisted of a drummer and a base playing rythmic reggae tunes. This day there were over 300 booths and just about every restaurant in Venice had a presence.
All the local color and lure of this small town was out in full force.

Overall it was fun, though it was a bit crowded for my taste and you really see how much this place has changed. Venice still has it's artsy flavor but the money coming into this town shows the most on Abott Kinney Blvd. The shops have changed from local vegetarian stops to French fair and cheap clothing shops turn into high end boutiques. It's great eye candy, but not so nice on the wallet.

Cuba a Bittersweet Tale - Part II

So now we're ready to fly to Cuba, right? Not yet. With our paperwork in order, we fly to Miami to pick up our Visa's from our friends and family who arranged our travel to Habana. Once in Miami my dad starts taking me around to all these family members I've never met. Where have these people been all our lives? In fact my dad wondered the same thing. Old memories surfaced, stories unraveled as we drove from one families house to the next. Dad had been in a camp in Miami, conditions at the least in the camp were deplorable, he'd even written his mother in Cuba a letter with a drawing of the camp. The letter boldly said SOS, get me out of here! Family in Miami were alerted to this by my grandmother. They were none too pleased that he freaked his parents out in Cuba. However, when it came time for dad to leave the camp no family members in Miami would let him stay with them. So my dad got options to go to several different cities, he kept saying no, he wanted to go back to Cuba. The last and final option was Albuquerque. Which is where he ended up.

I was getting the taste, literally and symbolically, of what it would be like in Cuba once we arrived. I nearly choked the first couple of times I drank the Cuban coffee, so dark and sweet that it made you purse your lips. But the Cuban bread, how to describe this? It's got a flaky crust which is absolutely perfect and it's soft middle has the texture of finely ground flour. Toasted with butter dipped in Cuban coffee is an amazing breakfast, lunch, or dinner treat. While in Miami I spent time with my half-brother, who I had only seen once in my life (this is another LONG story). I neglected to tell SB I had a half-brother so that made for an interesting phone conversation. To say I was in the dark about these travel arrangements was an understatement. I had no clue and all the Miami relatives scare you to death on what to expect when you arrive in Cuba. We packed two humongous suitcases full of clothing and basic toiletry items. My neighbor who sells Italian import foods gave me two enormous tins of olive oil for my family so my suitcase was stuffed. After a two days in Miami I was antsy I was ready to go. Because we had relatives in Cuba we were allowed to travel directly from Miami to Cuba. Boarding the plane my dad had memories of his plane ride out of Cuba at 14. He said it was a huge plane with big propellors on the sides he was frightened that they'd crash. Now he was scared all over again for other reasons which were a mere 45 minute plane ride away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Joe's on Abbot Kinney

Recently our friends took us out to dinner to Joe's on Abbot Kinney in Venice. I've passed this restaurant many times and have always wanted to eat there. Joe's sounds like a diner but it's not. Very upscale place, light and airy. My dear friend Conrad who recently passed away has a son who was the architect of this restaurant, so without even looking at the menu I wanted to try this place.

Our friends former boss and spouse love this place and told her about a particular waiter that they always request, Greg. Well this very nice gentleman proceeds to ask us if we've ever been to Joe's, "no", was our reply. He thought it funny that we were all locals and had never been there, my friend said "Abbot Kinney not my scene." Funny thing is he lives on AK. Loved the honesty and so did Greg. He said he could tell we were new since we were studiously reading the menu. He explained it all with confidence and warmth. My friend knew he must be Greg and indeed he was. I see why her former boss likes him. He's confident without being obnoxious, friendly without being snobby. It was already a good start.
Here comes the food. Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese, Pistou, Fine Herbs, Melon Marinated in Port Wine. Really I never get tired of this appetizer.

Then we all order something different. Silver Salmon with braised mustard greens, pumpkin puree, littleneck clams, white onion, water chestnuts, clam juice. New Zealand red snapper with potato scales, wild rice, crispy spinach & red wine sauce. The potatoes literally looked like fish scales. Sorry all these picture were too blurry to include, I'm sure the wine had something to do with that.
Finally one good picture the roasted sirloin of beef with mashed potatoes, crispy artichokes, brown butter balsamic vinaigrette, and red pepper juice. We all tried everything and it tasted as good as the descriptions. The fish was fresh tasting and seasoned perfectly, the steak was cook just enough to melt in your mouth like butter.

Finale was a pumpkin panna cotta with spiced ice cream, gingerbread, maple marshmallow, cranberries (everything around the panna cotta was good, but I was NOT fond of the panna cotta, it was very bland, definitely not my favorite). We also had what I call a chocolate dream, chocolate crunch cake with hazelnut praline and vanilla ice cream, candied hazelnuts I only had a taste of this but wow, it was superb.

We had a great evening again with good friends and Joe's stands as one of my favorite places on Abott Kinney.

Upcoming Stories

I'm apologize for the neglect to updating this blog. Real life has gotten in the way. I have many posts in the works: the continuing saga of my journey to Cuba, recent restaurant in Venice and the eclectic Abbot Kinney Festival. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pizzeria Mozza

We waited a month to get a decent reservation time and to me it was worth it. I had my best friends with me and we laughed, ate great food, drank lots of wine and enjoyed ourselves to the full. And look at that, SB made it into my blog (reflection in the menu). We arrived a little early for our reservations hoping to get seated quickly, or to at least seek some shelter from the record breaking heat. Instead we hovered over the wine table and plotted out what to eat while we drank a cool crisp chardonnay.
We started off with the white bean puree mixed with caramelized onions on bruschetta with a tiny well of delicious olive oil. Simply amazing, much better then my white bean dip, but now I have something to perfect it with. We ordered another bottle of white wine a 2005 Niedrist sauvignon blanc, I've never heard of this label before, but I can say it was perfect, slightly sweet, cool and crisp. That is the extent of my say on wine, as I am no sommelier.We also order the salmon bruschetta with pecorino cheese shavings, I didn't get to taste this but SB said it tasted like tuna, our friends didn't think so and seemed to enjoy it. We also ordered roasted olives these literally came to the table in a sizzling gratin dish, they were tasty but very HOT!
I of course order the fennel and sausage pizza as recommended by udon & stilettos blog. It created this zingy, for lack of a better word, flavor to your palate, an interesting combination of anise and spicy sausage. The crust of the pizza made me yearn for a wood burning oven, only on a colder day. Nancy Silverton's recipe for the crust is so light and airy and the high temperature of the oven makes this the perfect crunch everytime you bite into it. D ordered the plate of the day which was lasagna al forno. This was amazing, I've never tasted such great lasagna. The pasta was definitely homemade and slightly green, spinach maybe? The combination of meat a cheese were perfect, and the top had a nice layer of toasted mozzarella. Wow really I can't stop talking about it. SB order a Magheritta pizza, he was less then enthused with it, said it tasted very basic although of course the pizza crust was great, far cry from my own.
For dessert, YUMMY, our favorite part. Although I had to ensure that my friend B would share her triple chocolate torte with cocoa covered hazelnuts, and I believe a Sabayon or light cream sauce. She's notorious for not sharing any chocolate dessert as our last dinner out foretold. It was rich but not overwhelming, the sauce and hazelnuts were wonderful touches that made something average into great. I ordered the ricotta fritters that were gently placed on a lemon marscapone bed along with juicy ripe huckleberries. Also perfect. Cheese, lemon and berries really great combination and worth every bite.

To finish I ordered an espresso. And well D thought it hilarious or maybe NOT that I insisted on taking pictures of everything even the little espresso cup, it's cute, I love little cups. Here's my ode to the espresso...However, he insisted I take a picture of him drinking my espresso and had the gall to request that it be included in this blog. So I'll humor him...I liked the picture I took, but I like the picture B took better when I excused myself from the table. Here's your 15 minutes of fame D. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pretzel Bites

As this blog is mostly about food and not necessarily about homemade food I must share a recent snack obsession. For those of you who live in California and NY (and I'm sure a few other places) I'm sure you've all visited a Trader Joes (only the best place EVER). Well my new snack obsession is Pretzel Bites. Why you say Pretzel Bites well it combines what I love most... sweet and savory. Yes the salty pretzel is covered in dark chocolate with a sprinkle of white candy. Seriously it doesn't get better than this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cuba a Bittersweet Tale - Part I

Several years ago I took a trip to Cuba. I've wanted to write about it ever since so I'm going to chronicle the story here as it fits into what makes life sweet and savory. This experience was truly the trip of my lifetime. To start this series off I must give the back story.

My father is Cuban. What I knew about my father before this trip was limited. He came to the US when he was 14 years old. He lived first in Miami then in a "home" in Albuquerque, NM run by Catholic priests. My maternal grandmother was a very big Catholic and supported the church. She is a hospitable woman who always had the "Cuban boys" over. This is how my parents met. The group of boys that came over for meals all had left Cuba during the Revolution led by Castro and Che who ultimately ousted the dictator Baptiste from the government this Revolution caused many families to flee the island (that's enough history on that subject). These boys left everything, home and family to live a better life in the US. Many of their parents did eventually make it to the States. My father's parents never did. When I was very young I heard few stories about Cuba from my dad, I do remember him singing in Spanish to me, though I have no idea what the words meant. I do not speak Spanish and understand a little, as is the situation with many children of Spanish speaking parents who came to the states in the 60's.

For many years growing up my mom would say "write your grandparents in Cuba, send them a school picture." I felt that the language barrier was too much and only recall maybe sending one or two letters my entire life. As I grew older I had this overwhelming desire to meet my grandparents and see my roots. I was raised an only child, though I have half-siblings, so I have that tendency to want to please and fix everyone. I wanted to fix my father's sadness about leaving his home and family. So for years I kept pressing the issue, "lets go to Cuba." My mom was nervous, my dad was non-committal. I did research on how to get there as I heard American's were still making their way to the island.

Finally, with overwhelming sadness my Cuban grandmother passed away in December. This was an utter devastation to my father. He may have mistakenly thought that it would be his parent's dying wish to see him so this may have been one of many reasons why he wouldn't commit to going. We now had an urgency to get him to Cuba to see his father and brother before it was too late. After many months of getting our paperwork in order (finding and renewing green cards, changing names on passports and obtaining a visa to visit Cuba) we finally embarked on this trip of a lifetime. Nearly 40 years from the day my dad left his home.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Eclectic Tea

Tea in the afternoon is such a civilized meal. Today I went to see the Jane Austin biopic, "Becoming Jane." For any true Jane Austin fan it's a must see. Afterwards I had a few friends over for what I call an eclectic tea. This is because it was not truly English, as is Ms. Austin, although I did serve the usual cucumber and butter tea sandwiches and added scones with raspberry jam and butter. What made it eclectic? Well I threw in a little Italian and French items. Since I love sweets we'll start there. I made a chocolate hazelnut tart. This recipe is from Giada's show Everyday Italian. The bittersweet chocolate and hazelnuts are such a rich combination you can only eat a small amount, but this was delicious, crunchy and satisfying. I did make a basic Pate Sable from Clotilde Dusoulier Chocolate & Zuchini book instead of the store bought pie crust. I thought it might go well with the filling. It was a perfect match.

I also made a favorite dish from a book. Baking with Julia Child, it's called Pizza Rustica. It seems daunting the first time you look at the recipe. But to make it is actually quite easy. First make a basic pie crust:
2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 stick(4 oz) butter, 2 large eggs. Can be done in a food processor and then knead, take 2/3 of the dough, roll out and layer it in a glass pie dish.
Then mix 1lb ricotta cheese, 3 eggs, 1/4 lb mozarella, 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, 1/4 lb proscuitto, 2 tbsp parsley, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Fill your pie and roll out the extra dough and cut strips with ruffled-edged pastry wheel if you have it handy, and make a basic lattice over the filling. Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. It's truly a sweet and savory dish as the crust is slightly sweet and the cheese and proscuitto is salty.
Along with the tart I follow this with ecletic afternoon tea with fresh strawberries and whip cream.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Walking on Sunshine

Do you remember that song? Katrina & the Waves that was me and SB on Sunday. The Palisades Park was breathtaking and the exercise invigorating. We kept stopping to look at the surf while walking in place.
Lots of fun people watching and always some new crazy looking tree or plant to make us ask wonder where that came from? I've taken many photographs in this park of all kinds from weddings to abstracts to nature shots. It's just a lovely place. Afterwards we stopped at one of our favorite local hangouts. Marisco's. It really is local, only peeps you see there are surfers and all us Latins getting a good taste of some authentic California Mexican food. Yes it is different from any other Mexican food out there. Just ask a Texan (heavy on the beef and cheese) or New Mexican food (green chili with that please).
I had two Carne Asada taco's hold the onions and just a small sprinkling of cilantro (sorry Shoefiend) and a little bit of Tapetillo sauce. Great food after a nice Sunday walk.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Guacamole, Peaches & Pomegranates

This sounded so funny to me and my friends who are not adventurous in the food arena. But wow was this refreshing. The peaches were sweet and added such a nice burst of flavor when you scooped up the guacamole on a nice salty corn chip. And pomegranate in anything, martini's, salads...whatever you can think of is just so awesome. This is a great starter. We ate some nice greasy taco's afterwards and just hung with our friends.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Grapefruit & Crab Salad

Occasionally we get these random magazines in the mail about food. I suppose this is because I subscribe to Bon Appetit so I must be on the food mailing list. Anyways we've been making lots of yummy healthy things from the recipe's listed there. SB made this delicious salad with hearts of palm, mixed greens, basil, mint, grapefruit (should use ruby red) and crab meat. He dressed it with a lemon vinagrette. It turned out really fresh, clean and super filling.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


It's been slow lately at the office, so the usual Monday crazy fest was at a lull. This left room for a nice leisurely lunch at the Little Next Door. I adore this place. It's so French and reminds me of Paris. The people watching is phenomenal. It's getting quite popular, we actually had to wait for a table this time, which has never happened. I t's full of Europeans and most of the staff all speak French and English with the most adorable accents ever. The wait was worth it, we started with the anise flavored water, not for everyone but a nice surprise.Sandwich of the day was smoked chicken, with figs and brie served on brioche. I had that with a yummy lentil salad that had green olives and something spicy, our intern had the same sandwich with a nice carrot salad.The best part was the peach gazpacho. This was so refreshing, with peaches, cucumbers, bell peppers and a nice floating moss green basil ice cube. Perfect for a hot summer.
Shoefiend had the most delicious looking Nicoise salad. Too finish off this memorable work lunch were these wonderful macarons flavored in strawberry, coffee and pistachio. Really it doesn't get better than this. The manager of the Little Next Door told us that this was an unusually busy Monday, maybe it's the French still in party mode after Bastille Day. He said that they were working on keeping the Cafe open for dinner and in the upcoming months they plan on opening the Little Door for lunch as well. Also another place worth visiting. Completely charming and a nice retreat from the L.A. bustle.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bay Cities

This once sleepy beach town that I live in has the most fantastic Italian deli ever. It's called Bay Cities Italian Deli. I've been going here since elementary school. But it was in high-school that I found it was truly my place. I live but two blocks away now. In high school we had the rare pleasure of leaving campus for lunch and we'd all run down here, get us a Poor Boy sandwich (bolgona, cotta salami, and swiss cheese) for $1.98 or something like that, now it's $4 for a small sandwich.

This weekend surferboy and I went to get us a picnic dinner at Bay Cities and head to the beach. It was hot and we were too tired to drive to Hollywood to wait for a table at Pizzeria Mozza. We'll do this another time. I ordered my favorite sandwich "The Godmother," (pictured above and yes I did take a bite) it has genoa salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham, proscuitto and provolone cheese a meat lovers sandwich. You must get it with the works this is the best, mayo (hold this for blacklashes), mustard, onions (hold this for me), pickles, lettuce, Italian dressing and hot or mild peppers. I prefer the hot ones. I ate this on a blanket at the beach and it was so juicy and messy and totally spicy hot, you can't like your lips when you eat the hot peppers it only makes the burning worse. It was a totally a no frills picnic and completely relaxing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

White Bean Dip

Did you ever buy a bag of Fritos and that small tin can of brown bean dip and go to town scooping out every crevise? Well this is not that bean dip. Instead this is a white bean dip made from cannellini beans, garlic, lemon, olive oil and parsley. Toast some pita bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and dried oregano. Then go-to-town. Surferboy and I scarfed this down quite quickly, we had a friends bbq to go and knew the food would take a while to cook, doesn't always, so we made sure to eat before we left so as not to be grouchy guests. This is a great starter and sometimes a delicious meal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Haute Couture

This is my very random post of the week. It’s the sweet things in life so it still applies. To feed my fantasy of working in the fashion industry I subscribe to Vogue magazine and get weekly e-mail updates from Elle. My favorite pieces from Elle are usually the street chic pictures. They always feature some city with the hippest peeps around. Today though the ultimate e-mail update: Haute Couture Fall 2007. And who, you may ask, is the master of this exhibition. John Galliano of Christian Dior of course. He is truly an artist, if not completely eccentric, which makes him brilliant.

Feast your eyes on some of his fabulous designs. This years show was at the Royal Chateau of Versailles in the Orangerie which once had many rare species of trees and now it’s filled with fanciful d├ęcor; a statue wrapped in boa’s, looked like a spider to me, white alligator’s standing at the entrance, a David statue with a bunny head, random.
Many of the top models Linda, Helena, Naomi, Giselle, glided down the catwalk in Marie Antoinette inspired gowns and 1940s matador styled skirt suits.

I love is the details, the make-up is like a Picasso painting and the accessories are right out of the diamond necklace scandal of Antoinette’s short life.

This collection was inspired by the works of master painters such Leonardo da Vinci, Goya and Pablo Picasso. If you want to watch this show go to YouTube it's worth the few minutes to see. I have to say the Act I was very like the brilliant photographer Irving Penn poses. I love how Galliano always gets his models to do more then ju
st walk up the runway. To see Kate run for her life just watch 1996 Catwalk a Christy Turlington documentary. Galliano and his show are always fantabulous. The Matador himself.


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