Thursday, June 9, 2011

Arigato --Santa Barbara

I am no stranger to good sushi.  LA is home to a plethora of Japanese hot spots.  We've got the trendy Phillip Stark designed Katsuya sprinkled all over the city.  We've also got the celebrity ridden strip mall Japanese ala' Hamasaku. Venice locals flock to Chaya and Wabi Sabi, me being one of them.   All of these sushi restaurants are very good and unique in their own rights but none of them are Arigato.  Perhaps it's the combination of the amazingly fresh and unique dishes mixed together with the fact that I am in Santa Barbara, away from the madness of big city dwelling.  Arigato is doing something very unique. Their first location was situated in a teeny plaza on lower State. In recent years they upgraded to a much larger spot right on State Street.  It's an enviable piece of real estate and to most restaurants a scary rental proposition. What do they say, eighty percent of restaurants fail?  But not Arigato.  Each time I go I'm reminded by the two hour wait that Arigato will always be a Santa Barbara mainstay.

The dish I find myself thinking about every time I check in with the host is Miss Ebilyn's gyoza.  They are steamed postickers with shrimp, halibut, ailoli and ponzu.  I could eat only this and be satisfied.   I restrain at all costs to not fill up on the glorious dumplings or I will miss out on the fresh fish plates.  Their tuna carpaccio is fabulous.  The tuna melts in your mouth, never too tough.  Theirs is a fusion of EVOO and Arigto brand vinaigrette.  Also of note is the yellowtail and jalapeno carpaccio.  As far as rolls go, and I am not a big roll enthusiast, the Fiesta roll is other worldly: tempura halibut, avocado, tomato, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno and habanero sauce.  It is a brilliant medley of Spanish flavors.  Really, you can't go wrong with a single dish at Arigato.  And it's a great reason to get yourself up to SB!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


BP Oysterette

Each trip to New York City begins with a visit to Pearl Oyster Bar, the seafood mecca nestled in the heart of the West Village.  Their lobster rolls are the perfect ratio of lobster meat to mayo to roll. The decor could not be more authentically east coast with the ship-like lanterns adorning the walls. It is the exact sort of place LA has always been missing. That is until BP Oysterette came along.  BP stands for Blue Plate, their flagship restaurant up on Montana Avenue.  Blue Plate is known for their local, healthy fare.  Patrons line the streets every Saturday and Sunday morning waiting to sink their mouths into "healthy comfort food."  L.A. is one of the most diverse food cities in the nation but why never a New England lobster shack?  BP heeded the call and readily stepped up to the task. 

I have not tried as many menu items as I would like to prior to writing any sort of blog entry but because I have gone so often and ordered pretty much the same thing with such consistent execution, I think it fair to expound.  Evey time I go, I simply have to order their muscles in red curry sauce.  The muscles are the best I have had in LA.  They even surpass those I have had at Bouchon.  They are so mild and not the least bit tough.  The red curry is best enjoyed by soaking big chunks of their sour dough bread into.  In fact, I often just use a spoon. This is a great way to start your meal.  Another menu highlight is the lobster mac and cheese which is unabashedly rich.  The amount of cheese they use should be illegal.  As good as it is, I am always searching for the chunks of lobster meat, which I'd rather wait for with my lobster roll. I would hate to fill up before getting to my lobster roll prize.

My typical order for two would be splitting the muscles and then sharing a lobster roll.  When you split their roll, they will serve you with your own basket of homemade sweet potato chips.  Since the lobster roll is made with mayo, like all good lobster rolls are, it is quite filling.  The muscles, bread, chips and lobster roll are more than enough food.  And you can always toss in some fresh oysters on the half shell...

The lobster rolls have nice sized chunks of lobster meat and mixed with the perfect mayo based dressing, not too heavy nor too sweet (see the lobster to mayo debate: .  The roll is lightly grilled and really let's the lobster meat shine.  It is best paired with Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc or, my favorite and a bit more expensive, the Indaba Chardonnay.  It's a beautiful, buttery chardonnay from South Africa.  I even took a picture on one visit as to remember it by. 

BP Oystertte doesn't take reservations and it has proven very difficult to get in with a party over four. In fact, they have been downright rude at my asking.  I have found it best to go on a weekend afternoon and not at prime lunch time.  Sundays at four or five pm are really ideal.  This is a place to go and really take your time and enjoy the wine, multiple courses and atmosphere.  You will feel like you have boarded a plane and landed in the heart of the east coast.  Only you are mere miles from home if you live on the west side.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus is so good for you.  I like to keep roasted asparagus in my fridge at all times to snack on.  I'm always looking for the best way to prepare it and although my mother swears by steaming it, I like to roast it with some good EVOO, Maldon salt (or sea salt) and some cracked pepper.  If you want added crunch and flavor then toss on some bread crumbs.  Here is the recipe, it could not be more simple than this:

Ingredients (serves two):
  • 1 bunch of organic asparagus
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Maldon or sea salt
  • cracked pepper
  • bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the cleaned and stemmed asparagus in one layer on on cookie sheet and drizzle with EVOO, don't be afraid to use several tablespoons.  Sprinkle generously with salt and add some cracked pepper.  If you like that extra crunch then you can also sprinkle some bread crumbs on top.  If you are using thin spears, roast them for 8 minutes, if they are the fatter spears I typically cook them for ten minutes.  You can serve them hot out of the oven or you can even prepare them a day before a dinner party, simply reheat for several minutes at the same heat.  I have also written about my love of eggs.  If you want to make a complete meal out of this you can fry two eggs and place on top of the cooked asparagus.  It is divine and also very healthy. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Egg Salad with Curry and Chives from the LA Times

I love eggs in all forms.  I find myself consuming them for both breakfast and dinner most weeks.  I mean, I can go through a dozen in just a few days.  And now with this new recipe I have found a way to really round out my egg diet and have them for lunch as well.  My Granny used to make deviled eggs with curry and this recipe tastes just like hers.  Add some chives and that really balances out all the flavors.  I like to make this for a weekend, have some in the fridge when I want lunch or just to snack on.  The LA Times calls for the salad to be served on a dark rye bread, I think they really nailed it with that suggestion.  Here is the recipe:

  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 to 2 Tsp curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mayo (I use light-mayo by Best Foods)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp diced chives
You can chop your eggs or toss them in the Cuisinart and simply mix the rest of the ingredients together. It could not be any easier or more insanely good!  Happy egging, er, eating.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Westside Tavern

Friday evenings have not been the same since the Westside Tavern entered into the Westside Pavillion, a once sad wasteland of a mall in LA's sprawling west side. First came the new Landmark theater, arguably better than the Arclight in Hollywood. The LA Times actually claimed that the Landmark outdid the Arclight with it's Nasa designed seats and La Brea Bakery concessions. But that is beside the point. The Westside tavern, after it's first year, ended up on many a top ten new LA restaurant lists. Pair the WT's fare with that new art-house film at the Landmark and you are in for a perfect Los Angeles evening. You may even spot Tom Hanks going the opposite way on the escalator.  It has become my way of easing myself into the weekend and my Fridays have never been better.

If there is one food item on this earth that I crave it is their chicken liver mousse. It comes served in a mason jar, whipped to creamy perfection and is covered with a light layer of aspic to keep it creamy. Along with the mousse comes slices of thin, crispy toasted baguette and diced apples which cut the fat of the mousse so brilliantly. I literally have dreams about this and will not lie about the fact that I have polished one off on my own.

Their flat breads are also very good. They have three selections that will appeal to vegans and meat eaters alike. Their buratta plate is divine; the cheese tastes like's shipped straight from Italy and the heirloom tomatoes are sweet and delicious. There is something about the freshness of all the ingredients that is so appealing. As much as I do enjoy the Hillstone chain, and as often as the WT is compared to them, The WT is on a whole different level when it comes to farm to table. WT is a purveyor of local ingredients, you can just taste the freshness. That is why the menu changes seasonally; just when you found that new favorite menu item, it is gone. Beets come and go but thank goodness, chicken liver mousse is there to stay.

The Westside Tavern also has one of the best burgers in town. They cook it to whatever your preference and it always comes out pretty darn close. The bread is fluffy and light. The lamb French dip is another very popular item and it is very good and filling. The only problem with the entrees are that they are very large and very filling so I find myself mostly sticking to the appetizers, flat breads and soups. Otherwise, I might fall asleep during my movie.

All the wines by the glass are very fairly priced. They also have some very good and unique cocktails as well as that Moscow Mule you see on most bar menus these days. And theirs is equally good. The Grapefruit Rickey happens to be my favorite, made with Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Lime & Grapefruit Juices. It is refreshing and the St Germaine cuts the sourness of the grapefruit juice ever so nicely.

The Westside Tavern is a place to gather with your friends in the bar area either before or after a movie. There is no better place to congregate over cocktails and beautiful food on the Westside. The best time to grab a bar table would be before 6pm on most evenings as it fills up pretty quickly. Lunch is always a great time to snag a table as well. And remember, even if you don't like chicken liver, trust me, you must try theirs. Your life will never be the same.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

White Sangria

White Sangria from La Grande Orange


I absolutely love white sangria and have always wanted to make it, where to find that golden recipe was the question.  The LA Times ran this recipe in their food section just before Easter and I thought it was the perfect time to test it out.  I get my Pinto Grigio from Trader Joe's, there is a great bottle for $3.99  called Gaetano D'Aquino that I love (just call me Ramona from the Housewives of NYC).  If you don't have any Brandy sitting around at your house like me, go to your local liquor store and buy one little airplane size bottles, they measure out to exactly 1/4 C.  I never knew that?!  If you are worried about sugar then you can sub peach nectar to sweeten.  I find that the sugar really cuts the wine and brandy well, however.  Here is the recipe:

  • 2 bottles pinot grigio or dry white wine
  • 1 1/3 cup OJ
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 orange sliced in one whole, thin slice (for looks)
  • 1/2 lemon sliced the same way
  • 1/2 apple sliced the same way
  • large bunch grapes, stemmed and cut in half
In a large pitcher, whisk together the wine, OJ, triple sec and brandy.  Add the sugar and vanilla extract and continue to whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the sliced fruit.  Reserve some sliced fruit to put into each glass, the grapes will get icy and yummy.  Garnish with a slice of lemon or orange on the side of the glass.  You can even make this the day before you serve, just make sure to not add any ice to the pitcher as it will dilute it.  This is such a fabulous Spring/ Summer cocktail.  Be forewarned, it's very easy to drink!

Buttered Shrimp in Sriracha


It's been eons since my last posting, busy times, these are...  My new four quart All Clad saute' pan got me in the mood.  I have been cooking and trying out some great new recipes when coming up for air and in from cars and airplanes.  Lately, I have been getting my recipes out of the LA Times Food section on Thursdays, they really have some great ones.  This particular recipe comes from Bon Appetit's June Issue (Gwynneth on cover).  On a recent adventure to San Gabriel with my Dad for LA's best dim sum, well, arguably, I picked up a gigantic container of Sriracha at 99 Ranch Market, one of my favorite ingredients (spicy also means burning additional calories).  So, when I came across Bon Appetit's page entitled, "Sriracha: 5 chef's -- 1 Ingredient,"  I knew I was going to have to prepare one of the five.  Create an easy recipe and do it with shrimp and it's game on for this girl!  It's so simple and I used wild caught and organic components, I even got to use my own mint!  There is something so gratifying about eating something you potted, but I digress...  Here is the recipe:


  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 6 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Lb. shrimps ( I use the wild caught, peeled and deveined shrimp from Whole Foods)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh mint
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil
First stir together softened butter and Sriracha, melt in a saute' pan until the butter melts.  Then add the garlic, saute' for several minutes and add the shrimps.  Just before they are done, add lemon zest, basil and mint, only allow them to wilt.  Bon Appetit says to serve as an app or atop a steamed artichoke but I thought they would be great atop butter lettuce or even as the filling of a lettuce wrap, which is how I ended up eating them.  There is a real Thai flavor: spicy, fresh and that amazing after taste of basil and mint.  I have most definitely found a new favorite recipe in this AND it burns fat while I eat it.  Well, I guess there is butter in there so maybe it burns some of that off...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sole Meuniure with

Roasted Butternut Squash


I made this Barefoot Contessa recipe with my Mom over the holidays and I still have dreams about it. It is so simple and delicious. My mom's one problem with the dish was that it was too lemony and there are several comments under Ina's recipe on the Food Network site that say the same thing. So I am going to omit lemon zest from the recipe and just leave the same amount of lemon juice. We paired the fish with some roasted butternut squash. To save time, you can buy the squash pre-cut into cubes in baggies at Trader joe's. We bought three bags and roasted them with olive oil, kosher salt, cracked pepper and some fresh thyme in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. The flavors of the lemony fish paired nicely together with the squash. Here is the recipe for the sole: (serves 2)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 fresh sole fillets 3-4 ounces ea.
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 tbsp minced, fresh parsley
Preheat overn to 200 degrees F. Have two heat proof dinner plates ready.
Combine the flour, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper in a large, shallow plate. Pat the sole fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle one side with salt.

Heat 3 tbsp butter in a large (12") saute pan over medium heat until it starts to brown. Dredge two sole fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook two minutes. Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for two minutes on the other side. While the second side cooks, add 2-3 tbsp lemon juice (depending on how lemony you like your fish) to the pan. Carefully place the fish fillets on the oven proof plates and pour the sauce over them. Keep the cooked fillets warm in the oven while you cook the two remaining fillets. When they're done, add the cooked fillets to the plates in the oven. Sprinke with the parsley, salt and pepper and serve immediatley with whatever side you like!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The Pioneer Woman's Sonoma Chicken Salad

I have been making this once a month for about the last six months. It is a little time consuming chopping all the fruits and veggies and boiling the chicken but it is SO worth it and it lasts for days. The Pioneer Woman has an amazing website,, her recipes are scrumptious. I really like that she gives healthier options as well. In this recipe, she calls for 1/2 cup mayo and a 1/2 cup sour cream but I like to use a cup of nonfat plain yogurt and then a few tbsp of lowfat mayo to make it a little creamier. She also calls for a whole cut up chicken but I like to use 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I make open face sandwiches on wheat toast with some honey mustard and spinach. Sometimes I just lay it on a bed of spniach and that is it! The dill mixed with the grapes and celery make it so crisp and clean and I never get sick of it. Here is the recipe:

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 1 whole, cut up fryer
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 whole green onions, chopped, green and white parts
  • 2 cups grapes halved (green and red make it very pretty)
  • 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt or 1/2 mayo and 1/2 sour cream either light or regular work
  • small handfull of dill, minced, I use lots!
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 tbsp brown sugar
  • kosher salt to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preparation instructions:Rinse chicken and place in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes until chicken is done. While the chicken is cooking chop/ cut up all your fruits and veggies and place them in a bowl. In another bowl prepare the dressing: combine yogurt and or mayo, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Once the chicken is cooked, allow to cool and then shred it with your fingers or a fork and chop into bite sized chunks. Add the chicken to the fruits and veggies and then add your dill and mix together. Pour the dressing over the chicken/ fruit, stir well to get the dressing evenly distributed. It is just so super yummy; Icannot wait to eat it for the next four days!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Barefoot Contessa Lemon Chicken


This is seriously the best chicken I have ever prepared, hands down. I can be bored to tears by chicken but this was so, dare I say, moist (I despise the word) . The combination of the lemon, thyme, garlic and white wine make this chicken so flavorfull and by leaving the skin on, very crisp on the outside yet juicy when you cut into it. Seriously yummy! And so easy. Since I get sick of things so quickly and there are four massive servings, I made sandwhiches out of the chicken:I add goat cheese atop wheat bread, some arugala, light mayo mixed with pesto and voila! I also made a salad with it: I added mandarin oranges, avocado, roasted asparagus with Trader Joe's herb salad mix... divine. Here is the recipe for the chicken:
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I use cheap chardonnay)
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless, skin on chicken breasts (ask the butcher at Whole Foods to do this)
  • 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over med-low heat, add the garlic and cook for just one minute but don't allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 tsp salt and pour into a 9 x 12 baking dish.

Pat the chicken dry and place them skin up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck them among the chicken. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinke with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Ina reccomends serving with a couscous or rice to soak up the juices, I don't like eating starches so I roasted some asparagus to pair with it. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and add Kosher salt and cracked pepper and cook for 10 minues on 400. Yummy and very healthy!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Barefoot Contessa Turkey Meatloaf

So I lied... I am now writing about my attempts at cooking. No, I am no Pioneer Woman but what the hell. I never dreamed I would like to cook as much as I do; it is my zen time. But, can I cook? Hmm, it's too early to tell. At least the recipes I follow are easy and use minimal, easy-to-find ingredients. Cooking more has been a new years resolution every year for at least 5 years and until now has been a MAJOR failure. But alas, it is January sixth and I have cooked absolutely everything I have put in my mouth (wheat bread aside) since the 2nd (the 1st, of course never counts whilst in recovery from the previous night's gluttony). I LOVE to eat but just never made the time to cook... Until this week. Dear God, hope I am decent, still waiting to taste the loaf...

Ok, so this recipe is really easy and I cut it in half, it typically serves 8-10 and I am a one. So this is for 4-5 servings:

  • 1 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions or one onion
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (b/c Ina always uses thyme)
  • little less than a 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • little less than 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 lbs ground turkey breast
  • 3/4 cup plain, dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 regular size eggs beaten
  • little less than 1/2 cup ketchup


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F, the full portion recipe calls for 1 1/2 hours so try cooking for 50 minutes and check the temp. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.