Episode 1: One Minute Gourmet: Huckleberry Cafe

I have decided to combine my two obsessions – making short videos and dining out – and create a video series called “One Minute Gourmet.”

Each video will feature my dining experience, with footage of the restaurant interior, what I ordered, etc., in 60 seconds or less. It won’t be anything fancy but I hope you enjoy it!

Episode 1 features Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica. I wrote about the cafe back in 2011 and I still adore this place, four years later.  My favorite dish here is Lentil Ragu.  It’s pretty amazing, especially topped with its homemade hot sauce.

Without further ado, here’s the video!

True Food Kitchen

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After spending Saturday morning stocking up on the week’s worth of fresh produce from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, we enjoyed lunch at True Food Kitchen inside Santa Monica Place.

juice

I think this was Bright Eye that Kevin ordered …

IMG_7181Mediterranean Chop

IMG_7178Grilled Eggplant and Wild Mushroom pizza.
I couldn’t decide between the two so I had half and half.  Mushroom turned out to be my favorite.

IMG_7177Kevin’s Breakfast Burrito

I have to admit that a place like this makes me feel a little, uh, uneasy.  I’m certainly not blaming the food or the ambiance here – they are both equally organic and delicious (and the service is also wonderful).

I know this is a personal issue and nothing else, but this type of organic, sustainable, farm-to-table establishment feels so designer and exclusive, that it makes me feel a bit out of place.  I feel like I don’t belong here, unless I’m a size one yogi hipster wearing Lululemon on a gluten free diet (and a vegan, of course) drinking Intelligentsia coffee and having fresh vegetables delivered in a box weekly … or be like the gals from Shit People in LA Say.

I must be going through a mid-life crisis.  mad

Huckleberry Fun in Santa Monica

If I were to ever open my own shop, I would like it to look and feel like Huckleberry, this lovely bakery / restaurant in Santa Monica. I’ve only been here twice but I’m already smitten by its nature-inspired decor and high-quality offerings.

My staple here is a dish called Soft Baked Egg. Contrary to the name, this is not a traditional egg dish but rather a wonderful Tuscan soup made from roasted tomatoes and white beans with silky pouched egg in the middle. There’s a cheese in the soup (Parmesan or goat cheese, depending on the availability) that enhances the flavor of the tomato soup. I love the thick slice of bread that comes on the side, especially because you know that it came right out of the oven in the back. This soup is simple and hearty, and absolutely delicious.

I’m curious about other delicious items from its ever-chaging seasonal menu, but it’s hard not to order this amazing soup each time I visit. I’m sure I’ll eventually venture out to something new but until then, I’ll be indulging in Soft Baked Egg.

I also took home a freshly-baked baguette and had it for dinner that night. The bread was crusty on the outside and chewy in the inside – a perfect combination. It was perhaps the best baguette I’ve had in many years.

Huckleberry
1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 91404
★★★★★

Holiday Lunch: Michael’s Restaurant

A great thing about dining with a bunch of people – as in holiday lunch with colleagues – is that you get to check out a wide array of dishes the restaurant offers. The not-so-wonderful part is that the dish you order never looks as good as your friends’, and you end up regretting your choice the entire time. It’s a terrible feeling!

I’m usually content with what I order expect this day at Michael’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, where everything I selected seemed wrong and everyone else’s seemed right.

For a starter, I ordered a Dungeness and Blue Crab Salad because I was in the mood for wonderful pieces of crab on top of green salad. But what I got was a mixture of crab meat, diced apples and Japanese cucumbers in rich mayonnaise-based dressing. The dish was beautiful and flavorful but it unfortunately didn’t satisfy my need for greens (yes, I should have read the menu carefully). The image of the grilled shrimp salad that I passed over was flashing through my mind the entire time I was eating my dish. Boo.

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Dungeness and Blue Crab Salad: Organic Market Apples, Japanese Cucumber, Petit Greens, Cider Gastrique

Other starters that made it to our tables were:

oysters

Seasonal Oysters, on the Half Shell, Banyuls Mignonette

yellowtail

Sashimi of Yellowtail, Pickled Vegetables, Baby Cilantro, Black Bean Oil

soup

Cauliflower Soup, Lemon Brown Butter, Crispy

For lunch, I ordered the Alaskan Hook and Line King Salmon with asparagus and mushroom risotto. The dish was delightful – with perfectly cooked Arborio rice and tender piece of fish – but I didn’t feel that it was seasoned well. Everything was more on the bland side, and I had to add some salt and pepper to season the dish, which I usually don’t prefer to do. The hanger steak that others ordered looked so good, that I was wishing that I ordered it instead!

salmon

Alaskan Hook & Line King Salmon, Asparagus & Wild Mushroom Risotto, Black Truffle Jus

hanger-steak

Seared Hanger Steak, Red Bliss Potatoes, Wilted Spinach, Bordelaise Sauce

steak-salad

Seared Tuna Salad, Romaine Hearts, Fingerling Potatoes, Hard-Cooked Egg, Blue Lake Beans

halibut

Alaskan Halibut, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Soybeans, Sweet and Gold Potato Puree, Mushroom Vinaigrette

The dessert, however, was perhaps the best part of lunch. I ordered the Apple Pie Souffle Tart, which had the combination of flaky, chewy, tart and sweet, all in one. But again, the Chocolate Fondant Cake looked more delightful than anything else.

apple-tart

Apple Pie Soufflé Tart, Salted Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

cake

Chocolate souffle

pena-cotta

Panettone French Toast, Maple Panna Cotta, Poached Seckle Pear, Cranberry Sorbet

Michael’s was, to me, one of those “perfect on paper” restaurants. The menu was sophisticated, food was good and the ambience was pleasant,  but it wasn’t … excellent. There was something missing from making it a divine experience, although I cannot pinpoint exactly what that would be. Maybe it I tried it again and order different dishes, I may be able to figure out that missing piece of the culinary puzzle.

Michael’s Restaurant

1147 Third Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403

★★★☆☆