Monday, July 28, 2014
If you were primped and ready for this year’s golden globe awards, you most likely caught a glimpse of Oscar winners The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle. Both bearing similar plots, the films depicted the lives of money-hungry men and women desperate to earn a dollar at any, or rather anyone’s, cost. Their iconic selling technique was to offer an unforgettable deal at an unbeatable price- “Five thousand gets me fifty, right?” - with the ill intention of providing little to no money in return. As the lies grew more complex, the confidence and the suits of the wolves in expensive clothing escalated in style - and fate took no hesitation to provide them customers that were equally greedy to earn an easy buck.
The irony of both movies was that the more you tell people no, the more they want in on ludicrous deal. They know it sounds to good to be true, but if they place their trust in these seemingly trustworthy men, they can afford to buy their dream house next year, or pay off their spouse’s escalating hospital bills.
So what’s this narrative got to do with Bouchon? Bouchon is a wolf in expensive clothing. Slapping on a few words in French on the menu suddenly escalates the price for chilled soup or sauteed mussels and french fries to quite exorbitant prices. The more complex and costly a dish, the more likely one becomes to order duck terrine with house made pickles and violet mustard. Throw in the fact that the restaurant is located in the heart of Beverly Hills by renowned chef Thomas Keller, and you have people lining out the door for slightly above average food.
The kicker is where you are baited to come back for more - dessert. Although the rest of the food was relatively standard, the dessert was truly Oscar-worthy. Delicate peanut butter chocolate cakes melted next to scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and a salted caramel sauce. Pair that with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, and you've suddenly bought in to the dream that perhaps this restaurant is too good to be true.
Soupe Froide du Jour
chilled soup of the day
Terrine de Canard
terrine of duck confit served with violet mustard
Maine bouchot mussels with nicoise olives, fennel and french fries
Valrhona chocolate brownies with peanut butter ice cream and salted caramel
Finding a new restaurant for summer date nights can be tough, as my husband and I are picky restaurateurs. We like finding neighborhood gems - quiet restaurants hidden in walkable neighborhoods with a seasonal menu, exceptional wine list and affable customer service. We generally hope to spend no more than $35 per person, but we know quality pays a price. Luckily for us, we found the perfect romantic night out with the help of DineLA restaurant week.
Nestled among beach city greats like MB Post and The Strand, Circa sits along Manhattan Beach Ave in Manhattan Beach. Perched on a hill overlooking the ocean, Circa is perfect for catching a sunset before couples night out. Reserving a private table in the back of the dimly lit restaurant is a must, as the semi-booths provide the closest quarters for you and your mate.
Sharing a plate of cheese and charcuterie is the best way to start your meal. Together, you both are enjoying the same food at the same time, carelessly grazing each others fingertips to grab a slice of petit-brie and prosciutto. Although it is a supplemental $15, it much more mouthwatering than the mushroom tartine and little gem salad - which were both enjoyable in their own light. Though I did not care much for my roasted chicken, this made for the perfect excuse to spindle my fork in my husband’s meatball and bucatini pasta, and purposefully jumble my fork into his to steal a kiss. Dessert was the absolute highlight of our meal, with layers of graham crackers, firm chocolate and weightless marshmallows forming a perfect square of s’mores. I personally did not care for the churros at first; however, we were quickly accommodated after a brief mention to our waitress of our concerns.
While some of the dishes fell flat, others stole the spotlight from the show. For $35 a person - you simply can’t go wrong. A better selection of dishes may have supported a more enjoyable meal; however, I felt that it made for the perfect excuse to come back. Like any caring relationship, we looked beyond the faults of bland chicken and mismatched tartine ingredients to see the big picture of how Circa brought us closer together and delightfully entertained.
CHEESE AND CHARCUTERIE
mushroom, parmesan, arugula, grilled country loaf
Little Gem Salad
radish, cherry tomatoes, champagne-mustard vinaigrette, parmesan
Roasted Mary's Chicken
escarole, black olives, honey peppered carrots
Bucatini and Meatballs
San Marzano tomato sauce
vanilla caramel, Mexican chocolate ganache
guittard chocolate, graham cracker, toasted marshmallow
As I pulled the brass opening on a foreign door, shadows from a Moorish lamp slowly decorated my tired skin. I sat down in a quaint restaurant staring at the reflection of my eyes, covered evenly with black kohl eyeliner, when I notices pictures of energized children playing soccer in an abandoned field in Marrakesh. Mesmerized by the beauty of Morocco, I waited patiently for my food with a hot glass of mint tea and the warm company of an old friend.
We were greeted with amuse bouche - a small welcome from the restaurant to cleanse our palates and prepare our taste buds for the journey to come. Warming our hungry tummies with carrot soup and vegetable spring rolls, we patiently savored the creamy texture of goat cheese and dates as we waited for the trip south from the Strait of Gibraltar to begin.
Our first course was nothing short of appetizing - half a lobster grilled to perfection with a side of harissa cream sauce. Ever so savory with a hint of spice, our crustacean sea farer was complemented with a zesty grilled zucchini stuffed with a cucumber onion salad. Following our coastal-inspired appetizer, we fully engaged in our main course devouring a roasted rack of lamb spice effortlessly with salt, pepper and cumin. Cooked with a Middle Eastern flair, the lamb marinated over a melange of root vegetables, making for a wonderful twist on traditional meat and potatoes. Travelling full circle, we sailed to dessert - chocolate soup poured over vanilla bean ice cream served with a delicate phyllo dough pastry. Sipping the remainder of my tea as I crunched on the nuts at the bottom of the bowl, my senses fully engaged back to reality...I was only one block away from work in bustling Los Angeles.
goat cheese and dates, filo dough spring rolls, carrot soup
half lobster with harissa cream sauce and cucumber salad
New Zealand Lamb Chops
oven roasted lamb chops served with brussel sprouts, grilled carrots and potato wedges
vanilla ice cream served with chocolate soup and crushed almonds
A haiku for Gyu-Kaku
melting in my mouth
bite-sized Japanese morsels
meat on a budget
A harmonious blend of East meets West, Gyu-Kaku is a Japanese influenced Korean BBQ restaurant for happy hour lovers and bang-for-your-buck seekers alike. During DineLA, I sampled appetizers, meats, vegetables and a dessert for a mere $25. Factor in the $3 I spent on a peach saketini, and you’ve got yourself a wolf in geisha’s clothing. Slowly cooking the meat and roasting marshmallows on the table grill was the perfect distraction to catch up with friends and hide our cell phones. Nothing on the menu particularly stood out as extraordinary; however, I felt fully satisfied with my wallet and my belly as I headed back home to read The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami with leftover miso soup. Perhaps it was not the tantalizing experience I was hoping for, but it made for the perfect setting for a group of friends on a budget looking for a fun night out.
Edamame Soy Beans
BBQ Items (Selected 4)
Bistro Hanger Steak Miso
New York Steak in Garlic Sauce
Angus Beef Ribs
Friday, January 24, 2014
"You are an artist, a philosopher, a daydreamer. Your friends have told you before you seem to have been born in the wrong era, and they’re right. You want to live a life of passion and vigor, filled with good wine, great coffee, and world-class food. Bon voyage, you belong in Paris!" - BuzzFeed Travel Quiz
Although my subconscious yearns for a midnight stroll along the Seine river in Paris, I must escape my thoughts for a moment and accept that I am in the Paris of the West. Los Angeles, which is equally known for its entertainment, cuisine and fashion culture, is home to Petrossian - a restaurant which can rival even the finest French haute cuisine. Known best for their assorted varieties of caviar, I went to Petrossian to embark on a three course journey through Parisian delicacies.
While I sampled all of the dishes, please note the prix fixe menu provided during restaurant week encompassed three dishes: appetizer, entree and dessert.
Prix Fixe $45.00
butter lettuce, shaved egg, shallots, lemon, dill, crème fraîche
comments: slighty salty; appetizing to stronger palettes
white truffle oil, brioche, leeks
comments: creamy and savory; wonderful alternative to onion soup
Mediterranean Sea Bass
artichokes, leeks, celery, capers, caviar
comments: small portion; celery should be replaced with a starch
Wild Mushrooms Tagliatelle
chestnut, rosemary, parmesan
comments: pasta is made fresh and cooked al dente;
variety of mushrooms makes for an excellent dish
carrot, ginger, pistachios, pecan, basil
comments: reminiscent of carrot cake;
airs on the side of dry
milk chocolate, white chocolate, coffee
comments: for the chocolate lovers at heart
The service in addition to the high quality food made for a 5 star experience. If you have time, use your time to peruse the boutique shops along Robertson Blvd. for a fulfilling experience of your midnight in Paris.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
When it comes to a romantic cabin getaway in Big Bear, you hope the stars align to give you frosty winter nights and a room with a crackling fireplace. You anticipate the slopes are heavy with powdered (albeit, man-made) snow, and the ski chalet down below offers steaming hot chocolate and savory sugar donuts. As your day commences, and your night hibernating within the hot tub begins, your body hungers for an extravagant meal to compliment your day within the winter wonderland. Although the snow may be rubbish, save yourself a trip to a fast food restaurant and enjoy the elegant offerings of Madlon's in Big Bear.
Inspired by French Country cuisine, Madlon's offers a distinct variety of quality entrees among a flurry of diners and sports bars. Given that I was in Big Bear during New Year's Eve, my husband and I decided to splurge for a decadent 5-course meal to welcome 2014. For $50 each, we enjoyed an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert. Considering the quality and the amount of food we had, this was a steal. I know for a fact any high-end restaurant in LA would have been double for NYE.
Each course highlighted a different flavor profile, and showcased the raw talent of the cordon-blue trained chefs. True to French cuisine, the dishes were often coated in creme-based sauces, which can air on the side of heavy and excessive. But in true spirit of decadence, it was c'était magnifique! That, coupled with outstanding service, made our meal quite the night to remember.
a complimentary bite-size appetizer to entertain the mouth
Escargots au Pistou
sauteed snails in a rich pesto sauce with puff pastry
Soupe à l'Oignon
onion soup served gratinéed with crouton and cheese
Salade de Chèvre Chaud
goat cheese salad tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette
lobster inspired casserole with mashed potatoes
La Bête Noire
flourless chocolate cake drizzled in raspberry sauce
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
We live in a world where impersonal relationships is the norm. We don't know our neighbors, we don't engage in conversations with community members, and often, we are oblivious to our local businesses. I, like most people, like to run into a store and leave with my item in hand without a single conversation. But what if that one item has the potential to save your life? This is the power of modern medicine! Wouldn't you want to know the possible effects of the medication and maintain a relationship with not only your doctor but also your pharmacist?
Rx Unlimited is the epitome of good patient relationships. They not only pride themselves in providing good business, but they maintain close relationships with doctors as well, making sure the patient is taken care of full circle. They have been a pillar in the AIDS and HIV community since the early 90s, providing healthcare to those who were denied help in the initial stint of the outbreak.
Now, after 20 years of operation, Rx Unlimited is on the verge of closing. Due to a clerical error on behalf of inventory purchased by another local pharmacy, Rx Unlimited has lost their ESI/Medco contract provided by Express Scripts - a Fortune 100 company which provides most, if not all, of the medications within the store (and the country). Rather than fight the audit and risk not being able to continue servicing its patients, Rx Unlimited decided to provide of all the money demanded in the audit findings. What was the ultimate outcome? Express Scripts took the money and cut the contract as of November 8, 2013.
Why is this so near and dear to my heart? Because Rx Unlimited is my family - literally and figuratively. My family has owned and operated the business since its inception. I have bonded with folks who are routine patients, and have known most of the employees for the majority of my life. Rx Unlimited only wants to be able to continue to service its patients, despite the apparent bad faith dealings by Express Scripts. We hope that continued public and political pressure will convince Express Scripts that it cannot bully independent pharmacies and treat them as disposable, nor impede patients from choosing to use their local independent community pharmacy.
If you would like to know more information on the issue, please visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rx-Unlimited-Pharmacy/167017743314541 Their online petition can be found at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/rxunlimited/?m=0