Littlefork in Hollywood

My husband, lovely friends D and J, and I stopped by Littlefork for lunch this afternoon before heading over to Pantages Theatre to catch the matinee showing of The Book of Mormon.

This place offers some amazing New-England-meets-Montreal goodness. Who knew maple syrup went so well with everything?

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$1.00 oysters! (Or were they buck fifty each, I don’t remember … but these were one of the few items on the menu without the drizzle or a hint of maple syrup.)

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Maple Eggs — Subtly sweetened egg custard and fluffy scrambled eggs, topped with maple-flavored bacon. (These weren’t real egg shells; they were reusable silicon egg-shaped container, in case you were wondering.)

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Kale salad, with avocado, egg crumbles, red onion, and oranges, tossed in light tangy dressing.  I’m not sure how this gentle, arugula-like leaves can be kale, but it was delicious!

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Breakfast Burrito. This was so good — with scrambled egg, pork rind, fried onion rings, and cheese wrapped in tortilla — it makes ordinary breakfast burrito want to hide under the cover.  It’s even more amazing with maple syrup.

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Lobster Roll (Montreal Style with three slices of brisket).  It’s incredibly steep at $29, but is worth the splurge.

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Poutine.  I’ve never heard of this dish before, but I guess this French fries drenched in gravy, cheese curd, maple syrup, and eggs, is a famous dish in Quebec.

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Apple Cider Donuts with maple syrup. Mmmm.

I really missed the baby but it was nice to have a few hours of grown-up time with my husband, wonderful friends, and a glass (or two) of fruity Rose.

Thanks for the great recommendation, J!

Littlefork
1600 Wilcox Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
★★★★★

Party On

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My husband and I enjoy throwing lunch / dinner parties at home instead of going out, especially now that we have a little munchkin to think about. It saves money, we eliminate the need to look for parking, we can go overboard on wine if we want, and we can pass out on a couch immediately if we overdose on a little too much gluttony … and that’s precisely what I did this weekend.

After the “roll your own sushi” party with friends, I went straight to the bedroom and crashed for several hours, while my husband did the dishes, fed the baby and changed her diaper. I feel a little guilty that he did everything from start to finish – but I did contribute by making an appetizer platter of baguette, grilled asparagus, sliced cucumbers, prosciutto, smoked salmon, goat cheese, Havarti, and Asiago, which took all five minutes to put together. lol

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter if you celebrate it. If not, I hope you enjoyed those delicious Cadbury Mini Eggs!

Tartine at Home: Egg Salad and Shrimp Sandwiches

My corner market carries a wonderful selection of artisan bread from Il Fornaio. My favorite is the sourdough boule that I can get for a little over a buck. As much as I enjoy baking my own bread at home, you can’t beat this wonderful deal. I love frying a few slices in shallow olive oil until both sides are golden brown, and pile some of my favorite toppings to make a lovely tartine, or open sandwich, Cuisine-de-Bar style!

Here are two of my favorites. 🙂

Egg Salad Sandwich
(Makes 1 serving, 2 slices)

I got the idea to pile egg salad onto the toast after having something very similar at a bakery called Euro Pan Bakery in Pasadena that’s known for perfectly-cooked egg salad. I also added smoked salmon, thinly-sliced onion, and avocado, to make it a satisfying lunch! I hope you give this a try for a weekend brunch or just because you want to treat yourself to a wonderful breakfast or lunch.

2 slices of thick bread
2 eggs
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ avocado
¼ onion, thinly sliced
1 piece Smoked salmon
1 tablespoon Olive OIl
Salt and pepper

Making the Egg Salad: Heat water in medium pot and bring it up to boil. Drop the eggs gently in the pot and cook for exactly six minutes. Yes, six minutes – no more, no less. I got this secret from Dorie Greenspan, who preaches the Six Minute rule in her amazing cookbook, Around My French Table, and it works every time like magic (by the way, this cookbook is one of the best in the market). When cooked, peel the shell and toss the eggs in a small bowl. Use the fork and break the eggs gently. The yolk should be slightly runny. Add chopped parsley and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. This requires absolutely no mayo because the yolk provides that lovely velvety texture!

Frying the Bread: Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and put on low heat. Put the bread slices in the pan and fry, until the surface is golden brown, for about 5 minutes. Because you’re using low heat, it takes a while for the surface to brown but be patient. The wait will be so worth it. When done, turn over to the other side and repeat. Again, be patient and don’t burn the bread.

Assembling: It’s time to start piling the tatines. Lay the onion slices at the bottom and pour the egg salad equally over each piece of bread. Top the sandwich with smoked salmon and avocado. Enjoy with drops of hot sauce if you like some heat.

Shrimp Cocktail Tartine
(Makes 1 serving, 2 slices)

I first made this tartine when I had a particular craving for shrimps. I always keep a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer just in case of such attack. The combination of spicy horseradish and mayo is impeccable. This is one of my favorite summertime lunch.

2 slices of bread, thickly sliced
6 shrimp, cooked and cut in quarter
¼ onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon horseradish (more or less, depending on your taste for wasabi-like spiciness)
1-1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ tablespoon ketchup
1 garlic, grated
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons capers
Salt and Pepper

Follow the same instruction shown on the previous recipe, under “Frying the Bread.” Mix the shrimp, onion, parsley, horseradish, mayonnaise, ketchup, garlic, capers, vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Pile the shrimp salad on two bread slices equally. Enjoy with hot sauce!

Not “Just” Lunch: Easy 10-Minute Salad

My goal, not just this year but for the rest of my life, is to treat myself with care, compassion, and love. I sometime wonder why so many of us, myself included, are overly critical of ourselves. Is it nature or nurture?  Well, I suppose it’s the latter because I don’t believe that we are born with the preconceived notion that we’re not good enough.  But as we go through life, we encounter obstacles that make us falsely believe that we are indeed not worthy of wonderful things in the world, like happiness, love, or in my case, good food.

I noticed that when I’m feeling crappy, I eat crappy food (whoever first said “you are what you eat” is a genius). I think feeding myself with junks like fat- and chemical-laden, artificial “food” has always been my subconscious attempt to convince myself that I’m not worthy of good things, as if depriving myself of healthy nourishment that feed my body and soul is the way of punishment. I am now convinced that junk food consumption is a display of self-hatred, and in order for me to start accepting myself for who I am, I needed to begin the journey with the commitment to eating delicious, nurturing, whole food … and I can definitely do that!

My first step is to eliminate the word, “just,” when describing meals. Instead of saying “oh, it’s just lunch,” and eat sub-par food, I made a commitment to take time to prepare and / or pack a thoughtful meal. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant — simply good, natural, delicious food.

I learned that good food doesn’t have to take much time and effort to prepare. (I’m serious about this.  I used to say I have no time to do anything, but the truth of the matter is that I did have time, and had plenty of it.  I just chose to spend it elsewhere, that’s all.) It’s as easy as chopping vegetables and boiling water. Today for lunch, I prepared a Salad Nicoise-esque dish with all the leftover food I had in the fridge. The salad has string beans sautéed with olive oil and lemon juice, boiled red potatoes, hard-boiled egg, and shrimp (the frozen shrimp is a little pricey but is such a good investment and they last forever in a freezer), dressed in homemade Italian dressing of olive oil, mustard, garlic, rice vinegar, and salt and pepper. It only took about 10 minutes to prepare and the result is one satisfying, delicious lunch.  The plate is big enough to feed two, unless you’re super hungry, like I was today.

And this time, instead of saying that this lunch is just for me, I’m going to boast that is IS for me, and be truly thankful for the wonderful, gastronomic offerings the world has blessed me with today!  I feel really refreshed now and energized to take on the rest of the day!

Happy February, everyone! 🙂

Who Knew?!? Delicious Vegan Lunch at Real Food Daily

lovely-tableI never thought I would put words like “vegan” and “love” in a same sentence — being the hard-core carnivore that I am. But I’ll say it.  I love vegan food!  And I’ll say it again and again.  I also love Ann Gentry’s Real Food Daily restaurant in West Hollywood for opening my cow-obsessed eyes to the infinite possibilities of fresh, organic, natural ingredients that make vegan dishes one of a kind.

My sister took me to this vegan joint she frequents, located a few blocks from the Beverly Center on restaurant-packed La Cienega.  It was a Super Bowl Sunday and although neither of us are girly girls, we just don’t have much appreciation for football, so it was a perfect day for us to get out for a “healthy” day out — while the entire nation sat home and indulged in beer and junk food.

I love all kinds of vegetable and incorporate plenty of them in my daily meals but there was something very foreign and frightening about “vegan” food that completely omitted everything that once had a mother or a head. I was definitely intimidated to try non-dairy cheese and a tofu molded in a shape of a turkey (and mysteriously tasted like one).  I wondered — how tasty can these creations be?

But may I just say … WOW. Everything I had was a touchdown – one of the best food I’ve had in months. My sister and I started out with a tall glass of spinach/celery/carrots/apple/ginger juice. At first, I wasn’t sure about the combination of putting vegetable in a drink. Yes, I’ve seen Jack LaLanne rave about how delicious these juices are (at 2:00 in a morning), but the idea of putting stinky celery and spinach in a juice sort of grossed me out. Well, I guess the good old Jack knew what he was talking about because the juice was smooth, refreshing and delicious. Sweet apples and spicy ginger mellowed out the strong scent and the aftertaste of celery.  It was a pleasant surprise.

I ordered a Portobello Sandwich and although this was no different from a vegetarian sandwich you would order at regular restaurants as far as ingredients (Portobello mushroom, tomato, leafy greens and red onion), it was fresher, more flavorful and satisfying than anything I’ve tasted. The pesto spread made the sandwich out of this world.

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My sister ordered a bowl of Fettuccini Alfredo with (non) meatballs. Believe it or not, the vegan version of the meatball was more dense and juicy than any of the ones I’ve had at Italian joints, and I absolutely could not believe they contained no meat products! She also ordered a side of kale, which was very simple but delicious nonetheless.

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We ate so much but we didn’t feel gross at all. Because everything was made out of fresh, organic ingredients, we felt great for the rest of the day. I highly recommend this place to anyone who’s curious about vegan cooking, or anyone who just wants to experience an unbelievably delicious food that makes your body jump in joy.

Real Food Daily
414 N. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048
★★★★★

P.S. We headed to Korean Spa after lunch and got our entire body scrubbed. We soaked in hot baths and sweated all the toxins out in steam rooms. Talk about a healthy day, I tell you … well, so we thought … until we went to Korean BBQ for dinner that night and put all the gunk back into our body!

Paradise Revisited: Tommy Bahama Tropical Cafe

I went on my first and last blind date a few years ago, as a naive twenty-something. My friend thought it was a good idea to set me up with one of her single, guy friends. He was a nice guy and a fairly good-looking, courteous fella but the only thing we had in common was that we were single. He rambled on and on about himself the entire time and, although I prefer listening than talking most of the time, it got to a point I wanted him to just shut the hell up.

The worst part of it all was that he took me to Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café in Newport Beach. The restaurant was superb as always – with wonderfully tropical and coconut-y décor, delicious Caribbean-inspired dishes and consistently amazing service. In fact, this place is one of my favorite places to dine. The worst part was that the place happened to be gazillion miles away from home and thus not giving me the chance for a getaway. It was the most excruciating evening of my dating life and I promised myself then that I would never go on a friggin blind date ever again. I know I sound so mean by saying this but if you were there with me that night, you will totally sympathize. Just for the record, he was not a bad guy at all. We just had no chemistry at all.

Last Saturday was the first time I visited Tommy Bahama’s since the incidence, and luckily I was with a darn good company this time. My best friend’s pals were visiting the area from San Francisco so she and her other friends, who lives in San Diego, decided to meet up in the middle for a mini reunion, and I was her plus-one for the afternoon.  I have met them all before and I absolutely adore them.

With great wine, food and friends, I was able to wash away the bitterness of the yesteryears and begin a new memory with Tommy!

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Tortola Tortilla Soup, a savory blend of ground corn tortillas and vegetables with grilled chicken seasoned with island spices and garnished with lime sour cream.

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Saba Steak Salad, marinated and char-grilled tenderloin medallions served over a bed of fresh mixed greens tossed with tamarind vinaigrette. Garnished with grilled potatoes, vine-ripened roma tomatoes, shiitake chips and garlic aioli.

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Tommy’s Great Big Crispy Fish Sandwich, crispy beer battered local island fish topped with honey-roasted onions. Served with french fries and island tartar sauce.

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Wha’Jamaican Chocolate Cake, a flourless chocolate espresso cake served with white chocolate crème anglaise and garnished with chocolate shavings.

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Pina Colada Cake, a moist vanilla layer cake with Myers Dark Rum and chopped pineapple, covered with white chocolate mousse and toasted coconut.

Tommy Bahama Tropical Cafe: 854 Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92660

★★★★★

Match Made in Culinary Heaven: Ca Del Sole

Aside from the excruciating heat wave from May to September and a constant mocking of having the 818 area code, living in the San Fernando Valley, is, like omg, totally awesome. Come on, people, stop with the judgmental finger pointing and take a look around. Where else in the world can you find 15 Starbucks within a mile radius, witness historical landmarks torn down daily to be replaced by those new, shiny Westfield shopping malls, and enjoy little Lauren-wannabes talk in mysterious codes (yep, gagging someone with a spoon is a perfectly acceptable English phrase in this part of town)?

Well, whatever your opinion of the place may be, nobody can deny the fact that the Valley is, fur shuuuure, blessed with the abundance of dining options. For instance, Ventura Boulevard, the 20-mile blood vessel of the Valley that extends from Woodland Hills to Universal City, is the ultimate restaurant row, and any foodie’s dream. If you remain patient and carefully comb through the evil Jerry’s Deli and the homogenized Cheescake Factories of the world, you will surely find an original, one-of-a-kind gem you can call your own, even in this suburbia.

Ca del Sole is the needle I picked up in the Valley’s culinary haystack, thanks to my epicurean friend, in the cute, quite, upscale neighborhood of Toluca Lake. Inspired by the Northern Italian cuisine, the place exudes the beauty and the charm of a Venetian trattoria.

A bunch of us from work headed over to the restaurant for lunch to celebrate the end of a week-long training. We grabbed the table outside to accommodate the big party so I didn’t really get to see the elegant interior, but the patio area was so charming that I know I didn’t miss too much. It’s difficult to believe that this hidden place is only a mere blocks from the busy Universal Studios.

The lunch with my newfound friends and colleagues was truly enjoyable, and the wonderful variety of food we ordered was as colorful as the conversation.

The lunch special included a choice of antipasti or insalata, a choice of secondi (pork chop or pumpkin ravioli), and ice cream with fresh berries for dessert. I ordered the special with carpaccio and ravioli and everything was absolutely delicious. I was especially impressed with the pumpkin ravioli with crispy sage. The creamy sauce whispered to me that the autumn is just right around the corner and the aromatic pumpkin puree reminded me why this is my favorite season in a year.

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Carpaccio, thin slices of raw organic beef filet served with shaved Parmesan, capers and extra virgin olive oil

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Mezzelune, half-moon shaped pasta stuffed with pumpkin; sautéed with a light sauce ofbutter, sage, and parmesan cheese

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Pork Chop

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Insalata Caprino, goat cheese from “Redwood Hill Farm” with Belgian endive, baby arugula,
oven-dried grapes, caramelized walnuts and 12 year old balsamic vinegar

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Tonno, a seared Ahi tuna filet served on Swiss chards with roasted onion, oven-dried tomatoes, black olives, capers and herbs

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Salmone, an Atlantic salmon filet baked in a paper pouch with herbs, asparagus and acorn squash

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Ice cream with fresh berries

Don’t you think finding an amazing restaurant is very much like finding the person of your dreams? While you can’t help but wonder where the hell this person (or a restaurant) has been all your life, you simply cannot imagine living the rest of your life without him/her (or, it).

I think Ca Del Sole and I are going to be very happy together.

Ca del Sole: 4100 Cahuenga Blvd., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
★★★★★