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This, That, and The Other Thing

Hello, it’s me!!

I am starting my own blog because even though I am retired I feel I still have plenty to offer. I have a couple clues how to do this and I will make up the rest as I go along. I want my blog to reflect not only how I feel about three of my passions – books, art, and food, but also a little about this new chapter of my life.

I want this to be enjoyable for me to write and for anyone who happens to read it. Although I have to warn you, I have opinions, informed or otherwise, and look forward to expressing them.

In my blog posts, I will write about “this and that” and end the posts with “the other thing,” which is the unique element that enhances or detracts from my overall experience. I wanted to end this introduction with “I hope you enjoy my pithy bon mots,” but my son thought that sounded too pretentious, so I’ll leave it out. Happy reading!

Barbara

 

Featured post

SteelCraft Food Court

This open-air food court on Long Beach Boulevard is unique in its design and structure. It looks like a giant cage with gates that close and lock at night, securing everything inside. It is very open inside with lacquered top picnic tables and benches for eating. I woulcall this place industrial chic.

I was meeting Julie here – we finally have a food court to visit in her territory. I got there a little early so I had a Decaf Vanilla Latte at Steelhead Coffee. The baristas were very friendly and the coffee was good. The lovely foam double heart lasted all the way to the bottom of my cup.

Although SteelCraft officially opened on February 3rd, we were unsure how many vendors were in operation. There were only 4 currently open for lunch – Waffle Love, Pig Pen Delicacy, Tajima, and Desano Pizza Bakery. We opted for Pig Pen – which was not actually all about pork. Julie ordered a MacDaddy Burger with candied bacon, American cheese and barbecue sauce served between their signature mac-n-cheese buns. I opted for the Chicken Sandwich with garlic aoli, spring mix, tomato and melted feta served on a brioche bun. Both of these were quite good. Beef patty cooked just right and the chicken breast nice and juicy.

SteelHead Coffee sits right on the sidewalk so passersby, walking or in their car, can stop on their way to work. There are 30-minute parking spots marked in that block of Long Beach Boulevard so you can actually pull your car right up in front.

The Other Thing – I think I could hang out here. It seems that Long Beach Firefighters  like Steelhead Coffee.

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Puesto Mexican Street Food & Bar

Always on the lookout for good Mexican food (and heaven knows there are plenty of choices out there), a mention in Orange Coast Magazine got my attention. Puesto is located in the Los Olivos Marketplace off Irvine Center Drive in Irvine.  The article said “Irvine’s new Mexican venue brings delicious twists to our taco scene”.  So on a cool but sunny Monday my friend Jennifer and I decided it was worth a try.

We sat in the spacious outdoor patio area that contained a full bar for eating as well as drinking. First impressions are very important when you enter a restaurant, and this visit began well. The hostess and our waiter were very friendly. Everything on the menu even sounded good.  I chose a taco trio – mushroom, chicken al pastor and filet mignon which were very creative and unbelievably delicious. Jennifer had the equally delicious carnitas bowl with grilled corn, delectible guacamole, cheese, black beans and rice. With a side order of  Esquito (that same wonderful grilled corn with chile, lime, queso and crema), we had a meal to remember. The bottle of surprisingly tasty Mexican sparkling wine probably had a little to do with our fun time. We sat down at 12:30 and left at 4.

This lovely meal called for dessert, and I will let the photo speak for itself.

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Our waiter was staying late to help serve the party of 300 Yelpers who were coming in for dinner. We wished him good luck with that. I seldom read a good Yelp review but I don’t see how that could possibly happen at Puesto.

The Other Thing – And I am sure this was rectified by dinner time, the restaurant was out of coffee when I requested it after consuming a half bottle of bubbly. That is almost unheard of, but it did not diminish our experience.

A Day in Beverly Hills

Art in the park in Beverly Hills – could it be anything but classy. The semi-annual Beverly Hills Art Show is held at Beverly Gardens Park on Santa Monica Boulevard between Rodeo and Rexford. It is not your typical arts and crafts fair with local mom and pop vendors. The art displayed here was very upscale, gallery worthy and priced beyond my means. It was all lovely to look at and to envision a certain painting over your living room sofa or that that lovely flower sculpture in your backyard. If it didn’t cost thousands of dollars, it would make a great jungle gym for kids.

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That was the beginning of our Beverly Hills adventure. Next we were off to the newly opened the 5-star Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the only one I am aware of outside of New York City. The name itself brings to my mind elegant lobby furnishings,  beautiful fresh flowers everywhere,  and crystal everything. On that level it was a bit disappointing. It was quite nice but not the breathtaking effect I was expecting. In my past life I was in a position to frequent many hot spots, eat many meals from award winning chefs in many-starred restaurants.  Sometimes I over expect, and the experience falls short. That sounds so pretentious, doesn’t it?

My son Jeff and I and our friends Mickey and Erin were anxious to taste the food. Jean Georges is world famous. Reservations for dinner were booked for “eons” so we went early for drinks in the lobby and then a light lunch on the rooftop where we got the last reservation available that day.

The service in the lobby lounge was beyond what you would normally expect. Our wait person knew the menu backward and forward, gave interesting suggestions, and attended to our needs before we knew we needed anything — plus she was adorable. I told her should be the head of the hotel’s marketing department! We shared a small pizza with a crust so thin it was almost not there. Two cappuccinos and two sparkling sodas cost a week’s pay here, but everything was tasty and we enjoyed the experience.

The view from the rooftop was spectacular – Beverly Hills, the Valley, Downtown Los Angeles and, if there weren’t so many tall building in the way, you could probably see the ocean. We did see a few swimming pools. This is definitely a meeting place for those who can afford it on a regular basis. The atmosphere is friendly and the seating comfortable. A light lunch with still no alcohol was pretty expensive – but split 4 ways was doable.

The food was very good, but I would like a chance to have the full Jean Georges experience for dinner. I am saving up now. In about 6 months when reservations are available, I should have enough that might also include alcohol.

My son lives in Studio City. I stayed over and forced him and Mickey to take me to see “It”. No one in my neighborhood wanted to see it. I am a huge Stephen King fan. We all liked it, and as I expected as it drew to a close, Chapter Two would be coming soon.

On the way home from the movie we stopped at Big Sugar Bakeshop for some desserts – Lemon Square, Vegan Chocolate Cupcake, 3 Doughnut Muffins, Raspberry Red Velvet “cakewich” from CakeMonkey,  and Southern Banana Pudding. Photo doesn’t do them justice. They were all so very yummy!!

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The Other Thing – Beverly Hills was fun but the next morning it was off to Hugo’s for a good old-fashioned home style breakfast. Like they say (who is “they” by the way), it’s (Beverly Hills) nice to visit but there is no place like home!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Doings

My food buddy Jennifer and I headed for Pasadena on our first culinary adventure of the day. A small cooking supply store and café called Little Flower was our destination. Located on a residential section of Colorado Boulevard, this gem is cute and cozy and so neighborhood-friendly, it made you smile just walking in. You could go in for breakfast and stay for tea and cookies.

There were lots of Halloween treats on display and great ideas for Holiday gifts. I didn’t really need anything for my kitchen but was tempted anyway. I took a deep breath and ordered breakfast instead.

Jennifer and I shared since we knew were having something special for dinner at a friend’s. The Chicken and Cheddar Quiche was piled high with yummiest in a very flakey crust. We also got the Green Soup because it sounded interesting. There were lots of green vegetables of course, with the dominant flavor being asparagus……very nice. I topped my share off with a Rose Rhubarb Spritzer, and as a rhubarb lover from birth, I was thrilled. It didn’t disappoint.

After buying a hostess gift for later, we headed to Old Town Pasadena and drove around looking for trouble. We didn’t find any so we headed off for our next adventure in Sherman Oaks, to the home of our friend Erin.

My son Jeffrey, whose lifestyle change has turned him to plant-based foods, was cooking a vegan Mexican meal in Erin’s spacious kitchen. There were five for dinner for dinner, and she set a beautiful table fit for kings.  She didn’t invite any so it was for us to enjoy.

When my son is in the mood he makes everything from scratch. This was one of those times. The evening’s menu consisted of the following:

Kale and Cabbage Salad with shaved Brussels sprouts was mixed with an avocado vinaigrette

Mexican Creamed Corn cooked slowly in a pan with coconut mile, salt, pepper and             chili flakes

Layered Mexican Bowl with (1) brown basmati rice and red quinoa flavored with Mexican spice blend and tossed with fresh cilantro, (2) black beans slow cooked with salt, pepper, and cumin, (3) jack fruit (gives the look and texture of meat but is actually a fruit), finely cubed tofu, chopped onion sauteed in olive oil with chopped tomatoes, taco seasoning  and jalapenos

Toppings were  (4) a dollop of vegan sour cream and chopped cilantro and green onion

A little wine, some sparkling water and a slice of brown sugar pound cake for dessert while we watched the series premiere of “Wisdom of the Crowd”. My son works in the production department of that show, soooo — everyone be sure to watch it every week      so my son continues to be employed. It airs on Sunday after 60 Minutes on CBS. Tell your friends!!!

The other thing is a warning. My computer is giving me a bad time so I am not sure how this blog post will appear. There is bolding I can’t delete, and the font keeps changing.   Here’s hoping……………

 

 

 

Sunday Doings

My food buddy Jennifer and I headed for Pasadena on our first culinary adventure of the day. A small cooking supply store and café called Little Flower was our destination. Located on a residential section of Colorado Boulevard, this gem is cute and cozy and so neighborhood-friendly, it made you smile just walking in. You could go in for breakfast and stay for tea and cookies.

There were lots of Halloween treats on display and great ideas for Holiday gifts. I didn’t really need anything for my kitchen but was tempted anyway. I took a deep breath and ordered breakfast instead.

Jennifer and I shared since we knew were having something special for dinner at a friend’s. The Chicken and Cheddar Quiche was piled high with yummiest in a very flakey crust. We also got the Green Soup because it sounded interesting. There were lots of green vegetables of course, with the dominant flavor being asparagus……very nice. I topped my share off with a Rose Rhubarb Spritzer, and as a rhubarb lover from birth, I was thrilled. It didn’t disappoint.

After buying a hostess gift for later, we headed to Old Town Pasadena and drove around looking for trouble. We didn’t find any so we headed off for our next adventure in Sherman Oaks, to the home of our friend Erin.

My son Jeffrey, whose lifestyle change has turned him to plant-based foods, was cooking a vegan Mexican meal in Erin’s spacious kitchen. There were five for dinner for dinner, and she set a beautiful table fit for kings.  She didn’t invite any so it was for us to enjoy.

When my son is in the mood he makes everything from scratch. This was one of those times. The evening’s menu consisted of the following:

Kale and Cabbage Salad with shaved Brussels sprouts was mixed with an avocado vinaigrette

Mexican Creamed Corn cooked slowly in a pan with coconut mile, salt, pepper and             chili flakes

Layered Mexican Bowl with (1) brown basmati rice and red quinoa flavored with Mexican spice blend and tossed with fresh cilantro, (2) black beans slow cooked with salt, pepper, and cumin, (3) jack fruit (gives the look and texture of meat but is actually a fruit), finely cubed tofu, chopped onion sauteed in olive oil with chopped tomatoes, taco seasoning  and jalapenos

Toppings were  (4) a dollop of vegan sour cream and chopped cilantro and green onion

A little wine, some sparkling water and a slice of brown sugar pound cake for dessert while we watched the series premiere of “Wisdom of the Crowd”. My son works in the production department of that show, soooo — everyone be sure to watch it every week      so my son continues to be employed. It airs on Sunday after 60 Minutes on CBS. Tell your friends!!!

The other thing is a warning. My computer is giving me a bad time so I am not sure how this blog post will appear. There is bolding I can’t delete, and the font keeps changing.   Here’s hoping……………

 

 

 

TRADE

The food hall trend has landed in Irvine. Located on Michelson between MacArthur and Jamboree, this food hall is in a renovated strip mall smack in the middle of high-rise office complexes. So, to me, this area afforded a ready-made market for lunchtime customers.

TRADE is a little different from the other food halls I have frequented in the last few months. The food vendors form a circle around an outdoor seating area. There is also a Center Hub that provides a full bar for the more leisurely lunchtime (and after) crowd.

My foodie friend Sandy had trouble deciding – I went straight to Butterleaf and ordered a veggie burger. I am trying to be good. After checking all the vendors a couple of times, Sandy decided on the spicy tuna bowl at Megadon (Hawaiian and Japanese fusion). We were both well pleased with our choices. My burger smelled so good I picked it up before I remember to take a photo – hence the dent in an otherwise “perfect” picture

Whatever your culinary preferences, you will probably find something to suit you here. Portside serves fish, Two Birds offers chicken in many forms, Sweet Comforts speaks for itself, Dos Chinos – Mexican of course, gyros for something Greek, and Sandwich Society.

Maybe you would just like to come on by and hang out. There is shade if you are not a fan of sun in your face. Those inside chairs are quite comfy.

So many places, so little time. There are a couple more food halls on my list. They are popping up everywhere. I have one in Santa Ana and one in Long Beach.

Stay tuned….

 

Taco Brat – What a Concept!!

The owner of this first-of-its-kind taco joint saved a landmark building from demolition by opening in the renovated Mexican restaurant at 2101 Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa. And what a great job they did.  Indoor-outdoor seating, a bar, and even a play area for the kids make this eatery quite unique.

Taco Brat is part Mexican, part German and the food reflects these combinations in one form or another. You can order Mexican from the right side of the menu and German on the left. The starters offer some combinations of flavors. The wait staff is very knowledgeable of all items on the menu. I was surprised that a couple of the cheeses were unfamiliar to me. I wanted a little taste of both flavors but it was difficult to choose. The menu is small but all food is made daily on the premises. Check out the condiment wall – every hot sauce you could possibly want.

Beginning with beverages – they have beer, margaritas and sangria (how could they not!) but it was too early for alcohol for me so I opted for my favorite drink of all time  The horchata at Taco Brat is made with almond milk so it is not as sweet as what you usually get at a Mexican restaurant. It was delicious!! My avocado taco was lightly breaded and quick fried for a crunchy coating. It was served with a corn salsa in a soft taco shell. This was so good, and they don’t skimp on the avocado. Served on top of greens, this would also make a killer salad entrée. The bratwurst in a nice soft bun was topped with grilled onions and peppers and a dash of their home-made sauerkraut. Nicely done!

“You went without me?” my brother complained. I have no problem eating there again. There are a lot more good things to try. And YES, there is Taco Tuesday.

The Other Thing – The wait staff is very friendly and helpful, and they actually act like they are very happy to work there. That makes all the difference in a pleasant dining experience no matter how casual the atmosphere.

I shall return……..with my brother next time.

 

Weekend in Paradise-aka Big Bear

My friends Betty and Larry moved to Big Bear almost 2 years ago and I still had not driven up the mountain. Lots of reasons for that but excuses can only last for so long. This was the weekend that it finally happened. I was kicking myself that I had not made the trip sooner. First of all, their new house is amazing with beautiful views from every window. There was even a deck on the lower level outside the guest bedroom (which I will now refer to as “my bedroom”). The weather was perfect, my morning tea was on my deck watching all the  “literal”  early birds taking baths and eating from the feeders.

Saturday on Big Bear Lake in their new tri-toon. I was the first to have the honor, and oh what fun it was. Larry can really pick up the speed, and getting wet felt good! Some food, a little beer and great company – what more could I ask??!!

That night, after a shower and a nap, it was off to Big Bear Village for dinner at Sweet Basil Bistro and a walk through town – of course a little shopping for us girls. So much has changed in the Village. Lots of new restaurants and stores, planters full of flowers, live music in the plaza and the many clubs.

I actually was able to leave stress and worry back home and totally relax in this deliciously comfortable atmosphere. Betty and Larry pampered me all weekend. They said it was only because it was my first time. Next time I bring the food and I cook. That is perfectly OK with me – and my next time will be a lot sooner than 2 years – like maybe 2 weeks!!!

Thank you my dear friends – it was a weekend to remember!!

Road Trip – Finis

We heard that it would take as long as two hours to cross the Washington border into Canada but we only waited about 20 minutes. Surrey is the first town as we entered British Columbia and then drove about a half hour to Vancouver. What an amazing city, I really had no idea what to expect but everything was so clean and green, flowers blooming everywhere right in the middle of downtown. Our room on the 23rd floor of the Marriott Pinnacle Waterfront Hotel had a view of the water taxis landing and taking off. It rained pretty hard our first day.

Rode the Off-On Trolley for a tour of the city, then got off at Granville Island to see the Public Market and have lunch. Took lots of photos  in Stanley Park. Dinner at Bishops where I tasted my first bottle of wine that cost over $100 – and yes, there IS a difference.

Ferry to Vancouver Island took 1-1/2 hours then we drove 30 miles to Victoria.. Stayed at The Empress Hotel with a room on the Fairmont Gold Floor – ritzy!! Gold Floor guests have a sitting room on the 2nd floor and patios with fire-pits overlooking the harbor. Of course we had high tea with beautiful tea service and sandwiches, scones and desserts so plentiful that there was no dinner that night.

One of the highlights of this trip was Butchart Gardens. These photos tell the story. It was too early for the roses but it was hardly noticeable. With hundreds of thousands of tulips and so many other flowers blooming, it really was a wonder to behold!!

Across the border back into Washington and Oregon along the coast when it wasn’t overcast. Through the redwoods and our last night – in Mendocino at the MacCallum House and a lovely 5-course wine tasting dinner. What a way to end our trip.

It was a wonderful trip with a great traveling companion, but it’s always good to get home.

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