Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill – Lunch May 6, 2022 – San Francisco, CA.

Last time I was here was April 27, 2019, I was on my way to do a big trip to Mendocino, but Betty Lou’s was calling my name, so I had to try it. There is a sister restaurant called Sotto Mare Oysteria and Seafood that I have done reviews two consecutive Christmas’s. When my friend who lives in San Francisco told me that there is a spin off type place, I jumped at the opportunity to come taste the bounty. And what great bounty it was, all politics aside the food here is as good as Sotto Mare.  Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill opened at the highly desirable intersection of Columbus and Grant Avenues in a prime space formerly occupied by Viva Pizza. Sisters Betty and Louise are third-generation Portuguese from Hawaii, and Hector is from Temascalcingo, Mexico. Hector was executive chef at Sotto Mare since it was opened in 2007 by master restaurateur Gigi Fiorucci and became an instant classic. Betty was the longtime principal server there, and Louise was the manager. Gigi Fiorucci is their brother-in-law. It’s bringing some much-needed revitalization and excitement to Broadway — that southern boundary of North Beach, now known more for its nightlife than for its fine dining.

This time around the food was just as remarkable as in 2019, its just really great ingredients and fantastic food.

Here’s What I Tried:

East Coast Oysters Fanny Bay, just the right amount of these little beauty’s, super fresh and succulent, yum.

Boston Clam Chowder, creamy with lots of clams, everything you would want in a clam chowder.

Combination Crab and Shrimp Louie Salad.  I really crave a good Louie salad, especially the dressing. They did it justice, just one of my favorites.

Mikes Wok Crab, with whole crab, scallions, cilantro, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. This delicious dish is a creation of Betty’s husband, Mike – a concoction of Dungeness crab, ginger, scallions, red peppers and soy sauce; wok tossed with lots of love.  This dish has become a huge favorite!

I always want crab when I am in my fair city, this crab was a bit of an adventure, with lots of terrific flavor. But however you order crab here, just make sure you order it, always the best crab you will ever have.

Seafood Pasta Fettuccine with tomato cream sauce. clams, mussels, prawns, sea scallops, bay shrimp, calamari. This dish won best noodle in the Noodle festival. The Noodle Festival returned after a 10-year hiatus, pitting Chinatown against North Beach in a culinary battle royale. I can totally understand why, it was just amazing and I substituted the linguine for the fettuccine.

Scallop and Prawn Combo Sauté, served with tender carrots and asparagus, and scalloped potatoes. The scallop is very large and meaty and so is the delicious prawn, a true winner.

Wine:

Chardonnay, Ferrari-Carano, Healdsburg, of course this wine paired with all of the fish dishes, just the perfect amount of depth in the wine to add to this scrumptious dish.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Prisoner, Oakville, this wine would do great with a steak, but it was a real winner with the soy notes in the Mike’s Wok Crab.

Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill team takes great pride in being a warm, friendly San Francisco eatery with a top-notch seafood and Italian flair!  I just adored Rosalyn Columbo, she been at Betty Lou’s since the beginning, she makes you feel like you are in her own dining room at home. In November Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill will be celebrating their seven-year anniversary.

During the Pandemic they were open from 4-8pm daily, and San Francisco had a curfew at 10 pm. I asked Betty what she wants my readers to know about Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill and she said,  “The food is really really good”. 

The one take away that you get is eating at Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill you feel like you’re in your own Mothers home. They just make you feel so welcome, and deliver unique incredible food, that’s it in a

Nutshell.

Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill

318 Columbus Ave.

San Francisco, CA 94133

https://www.bettyloussf.com/

(415) 757-0569

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ENTREPRENEUR/CHEF/POP-UP GURU YONATAN CHAITCHIK CURATES A NEW IMMERSIVE INSIDERS FOOD EXPERIENCE

May 13, 2022 – Hollywood, CA. ———-Talented young tastemaker superstar; Yonatan Chaitchik has embarked on a new culinary model in the foodie mecca of New York City.

Monday NYC is a pop-up event. Yonatan is changing what a day off looks like. He selects groups of chefs, sommeliers, and hospitality professionals, hosting delicious food opportunities, with a different mindset and style. Chaitchik says, “We serve on our days off what we would like to eat and drink in a more casual setting, but simplicity is the key. A great simple dish with the best ingredients, paired with an excellent glass of wine, it’s very relaxing for these industry professionals to kick back and enjoy.” The name comes from the day hospitality workers have off; so they all get to recharge their engines, usually on a Monday. It’s a novel concept, created by Yonatan that has blown up in the last few months in Manhattan and beyond.

Born in Israel, Yonatan Chaitchik honed in on his craft in some of the top restaurants in Tel Aviv, starting for Chef Eyal Shani. Then following his instincts he moved to the East Coast three years ago. Studying at The Culinary institute of America, then staging at Carbone. Yonatan Chaitchik is currently part of the opening team at Saga in New York’s upscale financial district, working with Chef James Kent and Restaurateur Jeff Katz. Saga is known for its diverse cuisine, using primary European techniques, which has aided in Yonatan’s overall gastronomic knowledge.

Monday NYC’s menu is inspired by both techniques of the masters, and Mediterranean based cuisine. The food options change often, based on the resident chefs vision and the season, the style of food is really dynamic. Yonatan also brings in a new sommelier and or mixologist each time, giving them the artistic freedom to stage and execute their personal ideas. Yonatan plans to do more pop ups in NYC and other US cities every week.

With so many new unique epicurean ideas, innovator Yonatan Chaitchik promises to be the hot new next wave in gastronomic culture. Twenty-six years young he has his whole life of ahead of him, always inspired and continuing to look for original ways of presenting fun cuisine. His creative juices are overflowing, ideas that only come around once in a lifetime, but this self – proclaimed events and food guru is here to stay.

Instagram:

@yonatanchaitchik

@mondaynyc

Media Inquiries:

Jodi Jackson

JJ Entertainment

323-356-0797

Joddith@aol.com

What were your earliest childhood memories regarding food?

YC: Running into my great-grandmother’s house and looking for white chocolate in the kitchen. She was a brilliant cook, and so is my grandmother, I learned everything from her.

What did your family cook?

YC: My father is a very talented cook. He makes a lot of Italian food and Jewish food. My mom is obsessed with nutrition and health, so we always had amazing organic produce in the house.

What is your favorite food smells?

YC: I’m absolutely in love with the smell of fresh bread out of the oven. I grew up next to a bakery, and this smell is everything to me.

Who are your favorite local chefs?

YC: Ignacio Mattos from Estela, and James Kent from Radicle Hospitality. I admire clean and minimalistic food that bursts with flavor.

Who are your favorite celebrity chefs?

YC: Anthony Bourdain.

What does Monday NYC mean to you personally?

YC: Monday NYC for me is an outlet for young restaurant professionals to express their creativity and share it. Usually it takes years of work until you get that chance in a restaurant. Here we all get to do it on our own terms.

Do your friends and colleagues enjoy Monday NYC?

YC: Luckily my friends are huge supporters and come often to eat with us.

How do you find your chefs for Monday NYC?

YC: At the time it’s been always friends of mine from the industry. I’ve been fortunate to work around amazing young chefs.

How do you find your sommeliers and mixologist for Monday NYC?

YC: When I go eat and drink at restaurants I hunt for people who interest me and connect with them, first, we become friends, then we can work together.

How did you start getting into event planning?

YC: Somehow at every restaurant I worked in, I found myself most attracted to the events. The spirit of this one time project made it exciting for me. When the pandemic closed the world, I was lucky enough to go back to Israel and hone my event skills with the famous Israeli event planner Dzima. He taught me so much and I’m forever grateful.

Did you have a mentor in event planning? 

YC: Dzima was my first mentor, and these days I would say my Manager at Saga, Gracie Estacio is my biggest mentor. She’s a true inspiration to me, and has a rare skill set that makes her an amazing mentor and friend.

Was there a memorable recipe your mother made?

YC: My mother makes a whole-wheat cake with apples and nuts, healthy and delicious.

What was daily life like back in Israel as a child?

YC: I was a very active kid after school; I was active in scouts, judo, and windsurfing.

Did your parents influence your culinary dreams?

YC: My Parents supported me endlessly through my journey. We all love food, so they were always behind me in all my culinary aspirations.

Do your siblings cook?

YC: I have one sister and she is 16, she’s more on the consumer side at the moment.

What was daily life like back in Israel as a child?

YC: I was a very active kid after school. I was active in scouts, judo, and windsurfing.

What kind of ingredients did your family use for your meals?

YC: Olive oil, tomatoes, amazing bread, and tahini.

How was food sourced?

YC: My mother would spend a lot of time finding organic produce she liked, and my father would go to the market in Tel Aviv twice a week to buy meat and other stuff.

How are the grocery stores in Israel?

YC: The quality of products is quite high. We used to buy most of our stuff in the markets, and specialty stores.

Where do you grocery shop now in New York?

YC: I do almost all of my shopping in Essex Market. I live nearby, and I have great relationships with many vendors there.

How did you get your start in the culinary world?

YC: My first job came as a surprise. When I graduated from high school I went to eat at my favorite restaurant that opened a spot near my house, they said they are looking for a worker, so I randomly applied. I never thought of working in a restaurant, but after having a good conversation with the chef I decided to give it a try. After my first day at work I came back home and told my parents I found my destiny in life, I was in love.

What types of schools did you complete?

YC: I went to AOS in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America.

Why did you want to move to the US?

YC: New York City in the top of the world culinary wise, and I always wanted to work here for the greatest people.

Do you have a family?

YC: I have one sister and two parents, they live in Israel but we are still very close.

How does your family influence your style of cooking now?

YC: They inspire me to cook healthier.

What do you see as the new trend in food?

YC: People are steering away from international luxury towards local and fresh.

What is your favorite food?

YC: I love pasta – in any shape or form, also tomatoes and any fruit.

What is favorite region for cooking?

YC: Italian Cuisine really is a big part of who I am.

What is your favorite region for food?

YC: Right now I’m most fascinated with Turkey. I went to Istanbul before the pandemic and my mind was blown away.

What would you say is your own cooking style?

YC: Super simple, I use very few components, trying to highlight their beauty.

What is your favorite restaurant?

YC: North Abraxas in Tel Aviv. It’s part of the group where I first worked in Israel, for chef Eyal Shani.

What cities have you traveled to?

YC: I’ve traveled all over the world for food – top destinations for me are: Bangkok, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Paris, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, and New Orleans.

What other restaurants do you enjoy outside of New York City?

YC: I had a life-changing meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

What was the best culinary city you have ever been to?

YC: Istanbul, no doubt.

How do you see the food scene changing in New York in the next five years?

YC: Old School fine dining is dying away. People are looking for a more nonchalant dining experience.

How do you see your career changing in the next 5 years?

YC: I hope to open my own restaurant and event space in the next five years. Until then I want to keep working with as many people I can at SAGA, and Monday NYC.

What advice can you give a new chef starting out?

YC: Hard work is the only way to get started. The more you give at work, the more you will get back in life-long lessons.

Who would you say influenced you the most in your career trajectory?

YC: The amazing mentors I worked for, people who motivated me to be my best self.

What types of wines do you enjoy drinking?

YC: Personally, I find Burgundy the very best. I also drink a lot of German Riesling and Muscadet from the Loire Valley.

Have you done any education on wine and the wine business?

YC: Not yet, I plan to start my education through the court of Master Sommeliers.

How has the Vegan industry affected your business?

YC: The demand is higher, which forces everyone to be more creative about it.

Do you have some great Vegan recipes?

YC: My mom is vegan, so I often have to adapt my food for her.

Do you have any plans of opening a restaurant in the future?

YC: Absolutely, it’s my lifelong dream, which I hope to achieve in the next few years.

What is a meal that reminds you of your childhood?

YC: Rice with meatballs, my grandmother is super talented cook and she always makes that for me.

Do you enjoy Jewish recipes?

YC: I love Jewish food, especially chicken soup!

What’s your best memory of your family sitting around the table at a Jewish holiday?

YC: Once we spent Passover in the desert with family and friends. No reception or distractions, just us and the stars. It was so quiet and happy without anything but us.

Will you pass along your family recipes to your children?

YC: For sure, my father’s tomato sauce and grandmother’s meatballs will always be with me.

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Lunch and To Go – Pasta Brothers – May 4, 2022 – San Francisco, CA.

Owner Sam Moeini is so nice, and did I say movie star handsome. He was so generous with me, giving me loads of products to stage at my friends home. I really enjoyed our conversations and all he had to tell me about his life, passions and business.  He is a super intelligent, interesting man!

Here’s what I tried and was given:

Fresh Sandwich:

Black Forest Ham Sandwich, super fresh bread and just the right amount of meat. This is a really great choice for lunch.

Pastas:

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli.

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli.

Heart Shaped Truffle Mushroom Ravioli. 

Lobster Ravioli.

Sauces:

Beef Ragu Alla Bolognese.

Alfredo White Pepper and Nutmeg.

Pesto Nut Free IL Pastaio.

Ready Made Products:

Impossible Beef Lasagna Bolognese.

Beef Lasagna Bolognese.

Polenta with Roasted Peppers and Fresh Spinach.

Eggplant Parmigiana.

 

Other Products:

Egg Pappardelle With Hemp Seeds.

Pappardelle All’Uovo.

EVOO Ritrovo Oil.

I basically mixed and matched quite a few different products:

Egg Pappardelle, I made a combo of the Alfredo White Pepper and Nutmeg Sauce and The Beef Bolognese with The Egg Pappardelle, is was so delicious. The very flavorful sauces combined were the perfect way to enjoy this very fresh pasta.

Lobster Ravioli, I made my own sauce with cream, butter, garlic, shrimp, shitake mushrooms, corn, zucchini, and peas. It was very delicate and amazing.

The Roasted Butternut Squash, I made a very simple sage and butter sauce; this is one of my favorite dishes at some selected Italian Restaurants.  The sage and the butternut squash is very succulent, the best marriage of all ingredients.

Heart Shaped Truffle Mushroom Ravioli, I used the Alfredo sauce on this pasta, it was the perfect combination. If you plan on making a romantic dinner this is the pasta to use, it’s heart shaped.

Eggplant Parmesan,  the perfect amount of sauce, with the very tender eggplant, just the best.

Polenta with Roasted Peppers and Fresh Spinach. I put some of the Beef Bolognese Sauce on the top with some fresh parsley, really that is all you need. It is a simply wonderful dish. Everything is flash frozen, because they do not use any preservatives.

Sam Moeini and his brother Siam, who are identical twins, came from Iran after the revolution and escaped through the mountains, down to the border of Iran and Turkey. It took them three days to cross the mountains, at 30 below, they both lost 45 pounds. They made it to Turkey after 10 days, and then they eventually got to Rome, Italy, and lived there for 4 years. That is where they got their knowledge about pasta and Italian food in general.  He describes their harrowing escape being as dangerous as it gets. The brothers could have been shot at anytime and at one point were chased by wild dogs and wolves. This is the kind of stuff that screenplays are made from. Their chaperons carried raw meat to fend off the wild dogs and the wolves. Luckily they made it and are here to talk about all of their scary adventures, all of this at the young tender age of 17. They then came to America in 1985, with no money. Sam worked at a gas station for $2.25 an hour, as well as going to Contra Costa County College. Sam wanted to be a brain surgeon or a cardiologist. He says, “Even surgeons need to eat.” He loves the artistic side of the food industry, coming from a family of poets and painters.

Sam and his brother are very close and they also have a real estate company together. In 2015 they purchased a food-manufacturing company in San Jose, IL Pastaio Foods, which has been in existence since 1989. Brother Siam has tripled the business since they purchased it. They do manufacturing of up to 40 thousand pounds of pasta a month, selling their products to food purveyors, and restaurants. They decided to have a retail branch to promote products in San Francisco. Sam designed the whole store, which is clean and elegant. He created the logo for his Pasta Brothers for their flag colors. Pasta Brothers opened last September in 2021. Siam runs the San Jose operation and Sam takes care of the local San Francisco retail store. Sam also does all of the administration, licensing, compliances and financing.

Local neighborhood customers are loving their food. It took one and half years to get permits, during Covid. The space was a State Farm office before, many improvement drawings and permits were needed to open. The City was very happy to have them and they got approved.

Pasta Brothers is such a great addition to Divisadero St., from what I made and tasted their pasta is so incredible, just a super great find. The prices were extremely affordable as well. You can take any of their pastas home and treat your friends and family, they will be so happy.

Pasta Brothers

1734 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

(415) 525-4002

https://www.pastabrotherssf.com/
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Satche – April 22, 2022 – Dinner – West Hollywood, CA.

West Hollywood always has so many surprises, and Stache is just one more of them. Its fun, lively, filled with laughter, and surprisingly good food.

Here’s what I tried:

Cocktails:

Life on Mars, with Tequila, fresh watermelon juice, bitters, and mint. I just loved this dink; with the fresh watermelon juice it is very refreshing

Rocket Man, with Belvedere Vodka, espresso, coffee, liqueur, coconut cream. This drink is for the coffee martini lovers and it also gives you quite the jolt.

Purple Rain, Empress Gin, Prosecco, lavender liqueur, lemon, and mint. I just can’t get enough of this drink; the floral nuances are just out of this world.

Moscow Mule Smirnoff Vodka, ginger beer, fresh lime juice. This is a nice rendition of this ever-popular cocktail.

Shared Plates:

Calamari, Lightly breaded, Cajun spices, lemon wedge, and marinara. The calamari is tender and the breading doesn’t overwhelm you, it’s a great starter.

Brussels sprouts, with lemon, garlic, tater tots, crushed red pepper, coconut bacon, and spicy aioli. Another terrific dish for a vegan, and if you are not vegan you too will enjoy all of the marriages of flavors.

Chicken skewers, with herb marinated, BBQ, and tzatziki. The presentation is just astounding, and the flavors of the grilled chicken and tzatziki is a real Greek party in your mouth.

Burrata, with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and balsamic. The tomatoes are cut in quarters so you really get great tomato flavor in every bite, and the cheese melts down your fork.

Salads:

Protein salad, with mixed greens, beyond chicken, quinoa, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, cilantro avocado salsa, pepitas, cranberries, croutons, and green goddess dressing. The beyond chicken pieces are the perfect way to eat vegan and not miss the meat, I just adored this salad.

Chicken corn and avocado salad, with greens, grilled chicken, avocado, corn, lentils, tomatoes, toasted almonds, and lemon vinaigrette. A very hearty scrumptious salad, the sweet corn makes it simply divine.

Tacos & Burgers:

Street tacos, with jackfruit, cilantro avocado salsa, Queso, pickled cabbage, chipotle, corn tortilla, add avocado. This is truly one fantastic dish, it is tasty and just the perfect vegan indulgence.

Cali burger, with a beef patty, bacon, cheddar, avocado, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and aioli. A very big burger with all the fixings and then some, just what the doctor ordered.

Mains:

Bolognese Gnocchi slow cooked beef and Italian sausage, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and crostini. This is the kind of sauce your Italian Nonna would make and the Gnocchi’s are rib sticking good.

Steak frites, 8 oz. ribeye, garlic confit, fries. The steak was cooked to perfection, with its great tender texture and amazing flavor, a real winner.

Sides:

Classic fries, thin, crispy, simply delicious.

Truffle fries, of course anything with truffle will delight my taste buds.

Tater tots, nice and meaty, another great potatoes side dish.

Wines:

Nomadica Chardonnay, this is a great very drinkable wine that paired great with the calamari and the salads.

Nomadica Red Blend, it was served chilled and enhanced the flavors of the meat in the burger and the steak.

Calling Stache a LGBTQ restaurant is just the start; it also has a fantastic club in the back and does some very fun activities through out the week. Wednesdays is drink and draw from 6:00-9:00, figure drawing on patio. People come with their drawing pads and draw different poses. Then there is always a happening club scene after dinner. Their customers are LGBTQ, couples, and friends, mixed, young and lively. They play super fun Music: Top 40, along with club mixes.

Handsome Owner Ryan Floyd is from Alabama and he also owns 33 Taps Silver Lake, he is a seasoned restaurateur. Stache used to be Café D’ Etoile and an ice cream shop. They were up against Lisa Vanderpump – Pump and David Cooley – The Abbey to get the lease. Ryan Got approved in December 2019, then once Covid hit they had to stop all construction and not open for more than a year. Stache finally opened in Sept. 2021. The night I was their business was really booming. Everyone was enjoying his or her delicious food and drink. And did I say that everything is very affordable!

It originally opened as a Vegan spot, but very recently they added some meat items to the menu. Trying to appeal to a wider audience, in June they will be open 7 nights a week – until 2 am. I got there at 6pm, but 7:30 the place was jumping, they were showing RuPauls Drag Race finale in the back club area and it was so much fun, and so exciting. (I did order desert but they got too busy for it to be delivered, just know if you want to go eat – go early.) I actually went home and watched the whole show, to see whom the winner would be, and I am not a regular watcher of that show. But the crowd’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Stache is a great new addition to Boys Town, if I am not careful I will become a fixture in the future..lol!

Stache West Hollywood

8941 Santa Monica Blvd

West Hollywood, CA 90069

https://www.stacheweho.com/
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WOW CREATIONS Celebrity Lifestyle Gifting Suite in honor of the 94th Academy Awards – March 24th, 2022 – The Hilton, Universal City

It was so great to see everyone back in action, after a few years everyone was out. The vendors and the celebrities were so happy that the full Oscars are back. Including gift suites, parties, charities pre Oscar events, all ready to go.

Here were some of the vendors at The Wow Creations Gift Suite:

Prevail Beef Jerky, Don Francisco’s Coffee, Path Water, Turning Point Magazine, Amour Proper, Chef Izzy, OMG Skincare, HVTV, Dj Zel Natural Shea Butter, Royale Roots, Paul Wayne Gregory, Wilkin & Sons, Ltd Honey, Curry Foodie, Capo Cagna Wine, Dee–Lights, Dr. Marty K. Casey, Mollie B, Errbshop, Rice Force, Kira Reed Lorsch Skin Mask,  Living Creators Collective, Man Eater, Michael Sullberg Wines, Optimal Rush, Capaquarius Media,  Loft & Bear, Archery Jewelry, SknVue, Renew, Sundrift,Laguna Gold, American Meadows, Dan-O’s, Misaky, Aztec Secret, Olive Oil  Pantry, Absinthia, Adore Blanc, Soda Jerk, House of Orange, Helen Ficalora, and Lolita Loaiza.

It was just so much fun being treated like a queen and enjoying all that this Awards season and suites has to offer. Thanks so much Mark and Matthew Harris, see you next year!

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March 22, 2022 – Dinner – Le Chat Noir French Restaurant – Downtown Riverside, CA.

I met Chef Jean-Pierre at a wine event is Los Angeles a while back, when I knew I would be visiting Riverside I contacted him and was delighted that he remembered me and wanted me to join him for a lavish food tasting. After decades of successfully running “Le Rendez-Vous” in the city of San Bernardino, owners Jean-Piere and Isabel Serre decided to open “Le Chat-Noir” in downtown Riverside to pamper their connoisseur clients in this area of the Inland Empire. Le Chat Noir totally reminded me of my time in Paris with my Dad. Tasting all, of this lush wonderful cuisine brought me back to my days in France. There is nothing like French food and done right it is the Mother of all delectable gastronomic food. I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner and would come back here anytime to relish in this fancy cuisine again.

This whole area was really a surprise to me. I had seen many stories about The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, but never came down here to see it for myself; all I can say is wow.

Here’s What I Tried:

Les Hors D’oeuvres:

Champignons farcis aux Escargots de Roquefort, Mushrooms stuffed with escargots and a Roquefort sauce. What a creative idea, usually these little darlings are served in ceramic shells, or actual shell, but instead served inside of a plump mushroom. So much rich buttery garlic flavor, this dish delivers great traditional French flavors, a true winner.

​Les Crevettes a la Moutarde, Shrimps sautéed in Dijon mustard sauce. The Dijon mustard comes through in every bite, and the shrimps are butterflied to perfection.

La Soupe:

Soupe a L’Oignon Gratinée au Gruyère, Onion soup with melted Gruyère cheese. You get a very herbed filled flavor, more then onions, which makes for one interesting onion soup, very different from what I have ever tasted, but truly unique and delicious.

Les Viandes:

​Vol au Vent au ris de Veau Xeres, Sweetbreads in a puff pastry served with a sherry sauce with Crimini mushrooms. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. I never detected a puff pastry, but the sweetbreads were succulent, tender, and utterly out of this world.

La Noisette D’Agneau du Chat Noir, Lamb loin in a lingonberry and gorgonzola sauce. My sever Arturo recommended this dish and wow was he right. The sweetness of the ligonberry, with the tangy Gorgonzola sauce is the perfect combination.

Les Tournedos de Boeuf, Blanc et Noir, Filet mignon in a white and red wine sauce. This steak is cooked to perfection and the sauce just makes it so fragrant and flavorful. My gorgeous plate came with carrot, asparagus and mash potatoes. Jean-Pierre did a mix of all of these dishes on one plate; it was truly the best combination of entrees.

Les Desserts:

La Crème Brulée D’ Alexandra, French vanilla crème brulée. This is a great brulee, with all of the bells and whistles.

Wine:

Aviary Red Bland, Napa. This wine added a lot of depth to my main entrees, with the steak and the lamb, it worked perfectly.

They play French pop music, and opera. Their interiors feature red table clothes with wood floors. French style craftsman chairs, and triangular chandeliers. The overall theme includes, French motif, and Industrial metal wainscoting, with a redwood wall. Their elegant interiors and outdoor patio is just the perfect casual or romantic atmosphere for a flight to France.

The crowd included families, dates, and elders on dates. Everyone was enjoying his or her special night out. Le Char Noir opened 7 years ago on March 17th St Patty’s day. It has had much success including going through the Pandemic and staying open.

During Covid they were allowed to expand their existing patio close to the curb, but with a barrier. City officials dine here so they really wanted to help them.

My server Arturo Solis is from Mexico City, before this he was employed with The Mission Inn. Jean-Pierre’s son, Emannuel worked at The Mission with him and offered him the job. Arturo is extremely hard working; having lots of mouths to feed, with 5 kids and a wife.

My dinner was elegant and I felt very pampered, what an exquisite experience.

Open for Dinner from Tuesday to Saturday:

5.00 pm – 10.00 pm.

Le Chat Noir

3790  9th Street
Riverside, CA 92501

Tel: 951.786.9266

https://www.lechatnoirfrenchrestaurant.com/
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March 11, 2022 – Dinner – El Granjero Cantina – EGC – Los Angeles, CA

This is a newly opened colorful cantina, located right in the heart of the Fairfax district at The Original Farmers Market. At El Granjero Cantina, (meaning the farmer), the culinary team is giving diners an authentic Mexican cuisine experience influenced by Southern California farmers market ingredients. It’s is a lively, bright, inviting, indoor-outdoor seating experience.  Also it has a great patio in the common area on the plaza, between The Grove and The Farmers Markets, perfect for people watching. It is pronounced gran-heh-roh.

This space used to house Ulysses Village, which was a Greek restaurant, I tried their food there and was ok, but it never had the crowds that El Granjero Cantina seems to have. Now it is a far more a vivacious and intriguing space.

Owner John Moshay opened El Granjero Cantina in June of 2021. He also owns Fritzi Coop in the market, with partner/co-owner Neal Frazer from Redbird and Vibiana. I was greeted by, general manager Grace Etchegoven, who worked at the Melrose Italian staple restaurant, Pizzeria Mozza. She says, “I am really proud that we squeeze fresh lime juice for all of our cocktails as this is something that is very important to us, and it really helps us produce the best quality beverages we can provide.” The very creative mixologist, Toben Shea agrees, he is also from Redbird and Vibiana, and has created some delectable agave forward cocktail sensations. Tobin took classic cocktails, the Old Fashioned and the Mai Tai, and he put a tequila twist on them. He honors traditional agave-based spirits from Mexico with a specially curated list of Tequilas y Mezcal showcasing a special selection of Blanco Tequila, Reposado Tequila, Anejo Tequila, and Mezcal. To round out the wonderful culinary feel, Executive Chef Jenni Sklar adds some of her Latin twists, and fully embraces regional Mexican flavors. She worked at Lucques, Squirl, Son of a Gun, and Whoa Nelly Catering.  She says, “We make everything in-house from our pickles to our salsas, carnitas, and our tortillas. The tortillas are soft, pliable, full of moisture and fantastic flavor. The density reminds me of a tamale and every tortilla is handmade to order every time”. El Granjero Cantina’s tortillas are extremely special as Sklar spent months looking for the perfect blend of fresh corn masa and maseca (dry corn flour) to create a unique texture that resembles a flour tortilla.

Here’s What I Tried:

Cocktails:

Classic Margarita, tequila, lime and citrus agave. This cocktail is super thirst quenching, and goes down very easy.

Pomegranate Margarita, Verde mescal, Grand Marnier, grapefruit,and pomegranate lime. The perfectly sweet and sour cocktail, loved it.

Mai Tai, Anejo tequila, aged rum, lime, passion fruit and cinnamon. This was my favorite; I really enjoyed the marriage of all of the ingredients.

Lifesaver, Mezcal, Pisco, Fiero, lime, and pineapple syrup. For the mezcal lover this one will make you very happy.

Appetizers:

Guacamole, with smashed avocado, scallions, cilantro, and lime. Their Guacamole is so subtle, but it really makes you want to come back for more.

Fiesta Nachos, guajillo cheese sauce, Fresno chilies, black olives, onions, salsa verde, pico de gallo, with braised beef. A huge portion, make sure to share this delectable rendition of a Mexican staple.

Salad:

Caesar salad, with tomatillo chicken, romaine lettuce, cured egg yolk, sunflower seeds, and breadcrumbs. The sunflower seeds added an extra component that is just out of this world.

Quesadilla:

Hibiscus, with sautéed hibiscus flowers, onion, carnitas, and cheese. I really loved these quesadillas, unexpectedly sweet and the hibiscus adds a great texture.

Bowls:

Seared Fish, with Aji Verde, marinated kale, and pickled red onion. The fish was Mahi Mahi and is so tender and delectable, for sure this was one of my favorites

Tacos:

Dorado Tacos, with black bean puree, onion and cilantro, salsa macha, queso fresco. A crispy taco is my jam, this one did not disappoint!

El Granjero Cantina was designed by Amy Knoll Fraser who wanted to take full advantage of the existing architecture of the space and exposed joist of the ceiling. Fraser drew inspiration from many trips to Mexico City and she wanted the space to feel like a lively bustling cantina where the energy from the street outside gives back to the restaurant inside, spilling into each other. She saw the space as casual, but cosmopolitan and created a subtle division between the two with tall folding panel doors and dangling light fixtures meant to evoke lightning bugs in a jar creating a warmth that immediately attracts guests into the space. Fraser created bold pops of color throughout the restaurant which inspired the stripes running down the back bar and interior side wall and the bold and bright mural on the outside walls based on a traditional Mexican Otomi embroidery with a nod to Matisse cut outs. The chair design was created by Hee Welling inspired by refrigerator racks, and all the woodwork throughout the space was thoughtfully designed in hickory by John Moshay’s son designer Ned Moshay making this project a full family affair.

El Garnjero Cantina is just something new, fresh, and festive. The atmosphere will make you happy, and the food will complete this inventive experience, it is truly worth trying.

El Granjero Cantina is open every Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, and every Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. El Granjero Cantina offers Happy Hour “All Day” every Monday and Tuesday, and every Wednesday through Friday from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

SocialMedia:  Facebook @ElGranjeroCantina and Instagram @elgranjerocantina

El Granjero Cantina

The Original Farmers Market

6333 W. 3rd Street, Stall 750

Los Angeles, CA 90036

T: 323.933.9211

www.CantinaLA.com

* Note some content was taken off of their website and press release.

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Dinner – March 8, 2022 – Puglia Italian Restaurant – Blue Jay, CA.

The air in the San Bernardino Mountains is intoxicating. It adds to the overall experience of everything you do, including the food and drinks. You do have to be a bit careful when you are just getting into town. The elevation is 5,203 feet, so you do feel a bit light headed and have to get used to the altitude. Drinking a lot of alcohol is not recommended, and of course drink tons of water is good for the altitude difference and avoiding altitude sickness. I really limited my wine consumption during my first night in the mountains. They did a mini tasting of some of their delightful Italian red wines, but I opted for an overall light and fruity white wine, which just went so well with all of my delicious menu items. My overall experience was just fantastic.

Puglia Restaurant is named after the Puglia region in Italy, and is in the southeast of Italy, just by the sea. Its history goes back to the ancient Greek culture. They produce the best olive oil (winner for more than 200 years of the #1 Olive Oil in the world).

Here’s What I Tried:

Arugula Caprese and Burrata, fresh cherry tomatoes, olives, pink salt, fresh Puglia Style Burrata cheese, balsamic glaze imported from Modena Italy and EVOO*. They serve a pretty large portion, so it is a great dish to share. The burrata melts in your mouth and the olives and tomatoes are an excellent addition.

Spaghetti Zito, shrimp pasta sautéed with white wine and olive oil, adding tomatoes, Italian parsley, and roasted garlic. It is very simple, but just what the doctor ordered.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana, fresh thin sliced eggplant, Italian imported fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, Grana Padano cheese, EVO* olive oil. This very well could be one of the best eggplant parmesans I have ever tasted. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it is very very special and different from any other ones I have tasted.

Carbonara with bacon and Carbonara with zucchini, both are done as a table side show, and are the stars of the show for sure. They actually call it their Carbonara Show. They heat the already cooked spaghetti in a sauce pan table side and then it is tossed with egg, cheese in a hollowed out Pecorino Romano cheese wheel, so that the hot pasta catches some of the cheese in the cheese wheel and it blends with the other amazing ingredients, it is toped with guanciale. With the zucchini, which is, vegetarian, it is topped with very thinly sliced cooked zucchini and is just simply incredible. This dish is a staple in Rome, and it did not disappoint at Puglia’s in America!

Lamb Chops, 4 delicate lollipops with Italian seasoning, cooked to perfection, it doesn’t get any better then this dish.

Desert Special:

Tiramisu Flambé, another show done on your table. They light the Tiramisu on fire and the whole desert just becomes melted and delicious.

Wine:

Camarà Chardonnay, pale with notes of green apple and honeysuckle with a nice refreshing finish. This wine just went so great with everything I tasted.

There is no butter at all anywhere in the restaurant, and every ingredient is imported from Italy. Manager Davide Laera was my host and guide, he taught me so many things about Puglia, and beyond. It is just the best experience. Owner Antonello Zito is also a nutritionist, so everything is cooked with health in mind. He watched his Nonna cook starting at 8 years old; he has super fond memories in the kitchen as a child with his family. Puglia in Blue Jay is so successful that he just opened another restaurant called Palmina by Puglia in Palm Springs this past January, I am excited to do a tasting there soon.

There are also handmade products like red sauce for sale at the restaurant, I was so fortunate to be gifted one while I was there, and I can’t wait to try it.

The atmosphere is very inviting, part Chalet, and part Osteria, but all Italian. So much personality and charm goes into the dining experience at Puglia. The gal that started out my great experience was Erika from Palos Verdes, who has only been working at Puglia for 2 months; she was super enthusiastic about the food and life in general. I did bring some guests who were just awestruck by the food and allure. You just feel like you walked into a magical land of libation that will captivate and stay with you for a very long time. I highly recommend this lovely dining experience and say instead of getting on a plane to Rome, just drive up to the San Bernardino Mountains for the night. Book into a local hotel and enjoy the romance of Italy in Blue Jay California.

Puglia Restaurant

26848 Hwy 189

Blue Jay, CA.

https://www.pugliaitalianrestaurant.com/
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Cecilia’s Caribbean Cuisine – Feb. 18, 2022 – Lunch – Los Angeles, CA.

I met Erika and Sean at a super bowl event where they were serving their delicious jerk chicken legs. Sean invited me to come into his restaurant to try more food. The restaurant is located in a small neighborhood a few blocks away from Downtown formerly Staples Center, now Crypto Stadium. It’s on a corner and has a great tropical vibe. It’s a nice getaway in a very urban setting. Once inside Cecilia’s Caribbean Cuisine you will notice a small but very inviting dining room. The space has been completely redone since it housed Pupuseria Jiquilisco. I remember driving by and seeing this restaurant, it was not pleasing to the eye. Sean did some truly amazing work getting it to look as festive as it does, especially because he opened during the pandemic in August of 2021. It is simple but creative design at its best. There is a bamboo wall, upside down basket lamps, faux ivy garden wall, large black and white photos, and British soccer playing on a flat screen in the background.  It has an indoor-outdoor feel, with an open beam ceiling.

Since Sean opened, business has been booming. But, this is not typical Caribbean fare it’s really special. Cecilia’s Caribbean Cuisine  is one of the only Caribbean places in Los Angeles to offer Halal meats in their recipes. Halal means animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter and all blood is drained from the carcass. During the process, a Muslim will recite a dedication, known as Tamiya or Shahabad. Supermarkets selling halal products say they stun all animals before they are slaughtered, and the difference is that the halal meat it was blessed before the animal is killed. Sean says that he uses lemon and vinegar to wash the chicken and meat before cooking, he really believes that all of this adds to the complete taste, tenderness, and goodness of the various meats. Their meats are delicious and if this is their process then all the more power to them, really worth trying. It is all very specific and mindful, which to me adds to the overall feeling you get when you’re eating it.

Here’s What I Tried:

C’S Patties, these are like empanadas, and are so wonderful, the vegetables in the patties are very sweet corn, peppers, and onions. The meat is ground meat and is super flavorful. I tried both the Spicy Beef Pattie, and Vegetable Pattie.

C’S Sides:

C’s Fried Dumplings, these for sure are dippers, which should be used in all of the great sauces served.

Fried Plantains, when done right they are not super sweet and add a nice extra nuance to any meal, these were done to perfection.

C’S Basmati Rice, this rice will blow your hair back. I got parts of the secret ingredients after talking to Sean; clove, garlic, scallions, thyme, onion, coconut milk, allspice, red kidney beans and bay leaves. There is more then this but that’s all I was able to get out of Sean. It is just so exceptional, the aroma and nuances will make you come back for more.

Jasmine White Rice, great rice, perfectly cooked, pour some of the oxtail sauce on it and your good to go.

Entrees:

C’s Butter Bean & Oxtails, the oxtails are really tender and the sauce is otherworldly.

C’S Curry Shrimp, this curry is very light and comforting. It is not what you would think typical curry tastes like, Caribbean curry is much more resembling a delicate soup with unique subtle curry flavors.

C’s Original Jerk Rubbed Shrimp. This was my favorite dish. They get really good shrimp, that is wild caught. I would just order buckets of this, it is that good.

Jerk Salmon, delicious and tender, with amazing jerk flavor, a great menu item.

More Life Ital Stew Side, for the vegan, a really terrific healthy stew, I just loved the Okra. Sean used to be a pescatarian, but is now a Vegan, so he really puts so much effort into making this dish taste fantastic.

Juice:

Reggae Medley, this juice is full of many fruits, and will just quench your thirst, after some of the spicy foods.

Sean Romeo is the chief chef and bottle washer; he is very hands on to say the least. When I peeked around the corner to the kitchen there he was busy creating his memorable menu items. He had no formal training or experience. He would watch his grandmother, Audrey Romeo Rosemond Jackson, in the kitchen as a child. Sean credits his grandmothers delicious cooking to what he now calls his conscious kitchen. Not to be mistaken for Jamaican Caribbean cuisine, he is from Barbados, and his family is from Antigua. He agrees that there is a melting pot of Caribbean cuisine from many different countries, but Sean is very specific in that his cooking is more steeped in his Barbados roots. Sean is a real gentleman, and really loves his Caribbean food and traditions. You can tell just how passionate he really is about this place.  What keeps him going is seeing the gratification on his customers face. He’s a people person. It resonates in all of his dishes and the way he treats you when you walk in the door.

Sean moved to Los Angeles from Miami because he loved the tropical feel of Southern California. Sean loves his family, while I was eating his gorgeous son Taj decided to take a nap right next to me. He looks a lot like his dad.

From Cecilia’s Website: Innovators of Caribbean Cuisine in The Heart of Los Angeles. Introducing culture, lifestyle, and fine Caribbean cuisine to the diverse city of Los Angeles, California. They are the heartbeat and the rhythm of SoCal. Including: Zabiha Halal Meats, Wild Caught Seafood, Vegan Options. Los Angeles, California has a diverse community of residents and transients from the Caribbean. With a calling and demand to offer more to this bustling city, we launched LA’s first fine dining experience for Caribbean food and culture with a contemporary flair. We are a conscious kitchen, offering a variety for special dietary needs. We call ourselves innovators and specialists of Fine Caribbean Cuisine Dining, an element that’s been missing from LA’s foodie scene for some time. Cecilia’s Caribbean Cuisine as a family-owned restaurant with vision of restaurant owner S. Romeo. We offer more than cuisine, we bring the history, culture, and community to the rich culture of the Caribbean. With authentic flavors from the Caribbean, deeply rooted in the islands, guests from around the world flock to visit. Our chefs know the art of the Caribbean flavor. We are more than a dining experience, we are a lifestyle. Immerse.

Location:

Cecilia’s Caribbean Cuisine is an eclectic sample of Caribbean cuisine. We are the first Island restaurant to offer Zabiha Halal. Our desire is to bring the taste of the West Indies to Los Angeles. Nestled two blocks away from LA Live and are conveniently located in DTLA, close to the 110 freeway. The island connection runs deep at Cecilia’s Caribbean Cuisine with our friendly staff.

Experience:

Come be transported from the vibes of our space. You’ll be whisked away by earth tones, bamboo, and plenty of foliage when you walk through our doors. The sweet sounds of reggae, calypso, and soca will also mesmerize your eardrums while the vibrant aromas of curry and jerk engulf your sense of smell. Visuals in the backdrop of carnival, dancehall streaming alongside walls full of paintings depicting Caribbean culture. Our patio dining doesn’t fall short. Sit and enjoy the DTLA skyline with Lady Saw and Horsemouth as your backsplash while catching a glimpse of our authentic jerk pan in action. Our aesthetic beats of love and our understanding is that of social consciousness. Seafood is always wild-caught and sustainable and our farm to table always organic.

Staff Includes; Sean Romeo – Group-Chef & Owner, Ronaldo Nichols – Prep Cook, Jerry Cantrell – Cook, Danny Delgado – Dish/Prep.

Cecilia’s Caribbean Cuisine

1403 W. 11th St.

Los Angeles, CA. 90015

213-205-8363

https://ceciliasdtla.com/
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Caffe Pinguini – Re-Visit – January 9, 2022 – Playa Del Rey, CA.

This restaurant is a hidden gem, its location is at the beach, and if you don’t live near by, you have to hear about it from a friend. But once you do, you too will be a fan. I am glad to say that I am spreading the word, Caffe Pinguini is simply authentic, very fresh, and amazing Italian food on the West side. It is so worth a trip to take in this fantastical creative cuisine.

Both owners Tony and Enrico are from Rome, and worked in the restaurant business in Santa Monica at Café Del Fini for many years. Caffe Pinguini has been in operation since 1997, and they have managed to keep the food very authentic, and most of their recipes are what you would get in an Osteria in Rome.

There is a nice large outdoor patio if you’re concerned with being safe during this pandemic, also the indoor area is very charming, quaint, and romantic. They ask for vaccination upon entry. The staff is super accommodating and friendly. It’s all great vibes with great food – what more could you want?

Here’s What I Tried:

Starters:

Trio Di Bruschetta, assortment of bruschetta. There are three Bruschetta’s served, olive tapenade, peppers, and tomatoes, all of them unique and the perfect way to start your great meal.

Smoked Mozzarella with Shitake Mushrooms, slices of smoked mozzarella broiled and topped with sautéed shitake mushrooms. I am a true mushroom lover; this dish has so many lovely long slices of shitake mushrooms. It’s just a great combination of cheese and fragrant mushrooms.

Soup:

Tortellini In Brodo, four cheese ravioli and ground Italian sausage in a savory chicken broth. This is Italian penicillin, its very soothing, absolutely comfort food.

Salad:

Shrimp Salad, with grilled shrimp, served with mixed greens and garlic in an olive oil and lemon dressing. This salad is light and refreshing, you really taste the ingredients with a very minimal amount of really great dressing.

Pasta:

Fettuccine Contadina, with fettuccine pasta with green peas, mushrooms, and pancetta, in a light creamy sauce. The marriage of the peas, pancetta, and creamy sauce is just the best pasta – in my opinion.

Linguine Pesto, with linguine pasta with basil, minced pine nuts and garlic. This dish is just so simple but it has such a unique flavor that really entices ones taste buds.

Risotto Al Funghi, with risotto with mixed wild mushrooms. The mushroom flavor permeates this super wonderful dish, if your a mushroom lover, like I am, this dish is a must try.

Special:

Special Homemade Spaghetti with Lobster Tail. The homemade spaghetti is so delicious, it is done like square shaped pasta instead of round and the sauce is subtle but super flavorful.  The lobster tail is fresh and succulent, a really amazing dish.

Desert:

Crème Brulee, rich and creamy, just the best way to end my fantastic experience.

Wines:

Chardonnay, Black Stallion, Napa Valley, 2019. A creamy, buttery, rich Chardonnay, that paired with the Lobster Spaghetti so perfectly. It sets the stage for your taste buds to really indulge in the flavor of the lobster.

Contesa, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, a bold red Italian wine, next time your at a nice Italian restaurant order this with any of the red sauces, it will add to the overall experience. 

My dinner was such a wonderful experience; I was truly made to feel like a queen. The ambiance, the food, the service was all-exceptional.

Owner Tony was so kind to allow me to come in and try his delightful cuisine again.  The second time was even better than the first. There are many locals that come on a regular basis. If I lived close by I would for sure be in once a week, it is just that good!

Caffe Pinguini

6935 Pacific Ave.

Playa Del Rey, CA.

310-306-0117

https://caffepinguini.com/
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