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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

Dozza, Italy

Interpro Travel is the best, and not just because owner Roberto Torrini is a friend. Our itinerary always include an unscheduled surprise. The one our group experienced on the 2013 Food and Wine Tour of Northern Italy was a very special treat.
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Dozza is a small community in the Emilia-Romagna region in the province of Bologna.     It is known for its festival of the painted wall, which takes place every two years in September. During this festival, famous national and international artists paint permanent works on the walls of the houses. Our tour bus was too large for the narrow streets, so it parked down below and we walked up the hill. The art, of course, is very good. It is charming and colorful – quite a feast for the eyes.

There was lots of time to walk through the town, look at the art, relax at a little café with a glass of wine and just enjoy the day.

The Other Thing – Dozza has a website if you understand Italian.  To see more art, and in more detail, go to http://www.marcocavallini.it/dozzaeng.html. It’s all pretty amazing!

Din Tai Fung

Whenever Sandra and I go on a food adventure nothing has ever gone as planned. This trip was no exception because we were actually heading for Silva’s Brazilian Grill. The owner suddenly decided to be closed on Mondays with a sign reading, “Come back on Tuesday”. The heck with that, so since we were close to South Coast Plaza, why not try Din Tai Fung. How busy could it be on a Monday afternoon. I’ll tell you how busy, there was a 45 minute to one hour wait. The hostess did say that Mondays were their slow days. I have been wanting to try this place ever since it replaced Rainforest Café (which by the way was my granddaughter’s favorite birthday eating place from ages 1-10). It must be good if there is always a waiting line, right? Absolutely right – what a treat well worth waiting for (forgive the sentence ending preposition)!

Since we were first timers, our very pleasant server patiently explained how to consume each course. There is a structured procedure for this which includes the use of chopsticks. We asked for forks and she smilingly obliged. Where to begin? With some very helpful suggestions, we began with Cucumber Salad and Sweet & Sour Pork Baby Back Ribs. So far, so very good.

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Next came Sauteed String Beans with Garlic, Snow Crab & Pork XiaoLongBao, and Chicken Fried Rice. Add several more “verys” to the goodness.

As if we weren’t full enough, we must always have dessert – something not too sweet. How about Sweet Taro Bun and Red Bean Rice Cake? These were good but I think we do actually want something sweeter next time. AND there will definitely be a next time. Sandra and I are already planning it.

The Other Thing – Even the to-go boxes looked good. There wasn’t much to take home though, but we didn’t want to waste one bite!

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New Orleans Eats – Part 3 The Grand Finale

The last three restaurants we went to before I left for home happened to be our very favorites of the 11 we squeezed into our  7-day itinerary. Tartine and Willie Mae’s were two very highly recommended in previous issues of the Los Angeles Times Travel Section.

Tartine is a tiny unassuming place nestled in a residential/industrial area an Uber drive away. A tartine is a slice of bread with a sweet or savory topping. Kaitlynn’s tartine was with butter, jam and brie! Yum!! I had Baked Eggs in Brioche – 2 poached eggs baked in a bread bowl with herbed cream and topped with gruyere. They were both fairly simple dishes and so very flavorful.  This place is definitely on my “Go There Again” list.

Willie Mae’s was established in 1957. In 2005 it received the prestigious James Beard Award for “American’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region”. It suddenly went from a local neighborhood eatery to a nationally recognized restaurant. Then came Hurricane Katrina, causing severe damage to the restaurant.  With help from local and national organizations, Willie Mae’s was able to reopen in 2007. Then came recognition from the Food Network and the Travel Channel as “America’s Best Fried Chicken”. Willie Mae’s great granddaughter now runs the operation.

The nation’s best fried chicken – that remained to be seen. We both ordered the 3-piece dinner with a choice of sides. Between us we got mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, butter beans and fried okra. Boy, how Southern can you get??!! Now – the best fried chicken?  You betcha!!!! I never tasted anything so good, so crispy, such yummy breading. We almost forgot about the chicken (which was very moist and tender) the crisp breading was soooooo  good!!

AND their bread pudding (served with  white chocolate and rum sauce) is also the best I have ever tasted. The restaurant was full, people waiting outside – many driving miles and miles and some like me = from out of state.

Last but certainly not least is our lunch at the Maple Street Café. If we had known how good it was, it would have been our third visit there instead of our first, and it is so close to Kaitlynn’s apartment. The menu is categorized by Zagat as Mediterranean, but it also has an Italian flare and a flavor of its own.

We started with Homemade Mozzarella and Sliced Tomatoes with roasted garlic, onions, fresh basil and a balsamic vinaigrette. An older couple with lovely Southern accents highly recommended the Chicken Lemon and the white bean soup. Of course, we ordered those dishes as well as the Stuffed Shrimp in phyllo dough with a seafood stuffing and topped with white wine lemon butter. Dessert was key lime pie for me and Baklava for Kaitlynn. Everything was top notch including the never empty glasses of iced tea with lemon and mint. It was a perfect last meal before leaving for home.

There is so much more to my trip than the food.  But that will be blogs for another time.

 

 

New Orleans Eats – Part 2

The Milk Bar is so much fun you don’t know whether it’s the food or the atmosphere that is so engrosing. The food is served in a paper bag so you can take it with you or eat it there. How could I resist a sandwich called “Clooney’s Choice”?  It was made with marinated chicken, avocado, tomato, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, cilantro and lemon mayo. The “Occidental Oriental” was Kaitlynn’s choice and apparently her “usual”. It was like a Chinese chicken salad on a bun. You can’t leave without experiencing their milk shakes or malts. Billed as old fashioned and hand dipped, they are huge and all under $4.00. “Chocthunder from Downunder” shake for Kaitlynn and the “Caramel Carama” malt for moi. The Moo Crewe was very friendly and accommodating. The entertainment is on the wall in the form of Cow Economics from around the world. For a good laugh, check out their website.

P.J.s Coffee is the Starbuck’s of New Orleans and Kaitlynn’s favorite hangout.  The first one was founded in 1978. There are two cafes on the Tulane campus and one right across the street from Kaitlynn’s apartment. Their summer featured coffee is Southern Wedding Cake Iced Latte. That was my order every time.
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We had a fancy brunch on the 24th to celebrate both our birthdays. Ralph’s on the Park is across the entrance to City Park which is four times larger than New York’s Central Park. Our table was decorated with a red ribbon to indicate there was a birthday to celebrate. A handsome older gentleman was playing the piano in the bar – wonderful old songs from the 30s and 40s.

First course was a Pomegranate Sparkler for me and a Shirley Temple for Kaitlynn accompanied by Cream Biscuits with seasonal fresh made jam. Second course was Turtle Soup for Kaitlynn and Corn Tomato Bisque with a corn relish float for me. Entrée choices for us were Southern Schnitzel – paneed chicken breast, scrambled eggs, chicken sausage cream gravy and red bean puree, AND Crawfish Cakes & Poached Eggs with smoked tomato butter sauce, arugula and Cherry Tomato Salad.

Dessert turned out to be a real party. We ordered Banana Bread Pudding and Chocolate Doberge. Then while we started in on those, the waitress brought us each a chocolate birthday with a candle. Four desserts at one meal –  A chocolate-lover’s dream!

After a St. Charles street car ride and a tour through the National WWII Museum and Ogden Museum of Southern Art (more about those later), we ate lunch at Flamingo  Go Go – what a kick!! It was a Monday so I had to have my Red Beans and Rice. It was served with smoked sausage. I also had to have the drink of the day, it seemed only right. The frozen margarita tasted so good on a day that reached 90+.

Stay tuned for New Orleans Eats – Part 3, The Grand Finale

 

 

New Orleans Eats – Part 1

I will be talking about all the meals I enjoyed and the order in which I enjoyed them. These meals were all shared with my granddaughter in whose new apartment I stayed. She lives very very close to several yummy eating establishments. Our first dinner was at Fresco’s where we experienced a spinach and artichoke Stromboli. This is a type of turnover stuffed with various cheeses, cold cuts or vegetables — like a fancy calzone. The dough is either Italian bread dough or pizza dough.

Breakfast the next morning was at Satsuma. The name means  a type of tangerine originally grown in Japan. I’m not sure what the name had to do with the food served though. The pineapple ginger limeade was delicious. Avocado Toast for me with a poached egg, fresh basil, shaved radish, lemon zest and olive oil on sourdough. Turkey sandwich for Kaitlynn with roasted red peppers, pesto aioli and provolone on ciabatta.

At Zotz Café its the experience, not the beverages. Their motto is “Home of the Strange and Unusual – the coffee shop your mama warned you about”. Funky and fun!! Their website pairs your zodiac sign with the drink you should order. Since we are both Cancer – We are assertive and born for the limelight (not so sure that’s true). Our drink is the Lemon Drop (Lemon + Mojito). We didn’t order this. We drank our coffee before we ever looked at their website.

Camellia Grill is a non-descript counter service only diner in business since 1946. Basic Southern menu with no frills, but the crawfish po’boy was quite tasty. My side was Corn MacQue Choux which is their version of creamed corn – interesting but probably won’t try it again. Kaitlynn ordered “The Hickmen’s”, a burger with Swiss cheese, sautéed onions and mushrooms. I dont’ know who the Hickmen are, but their burger was messy and good.

Coming up – New Orleans Eats – Part 2

 

 

Republique

 

Republic is listed as #19 on Jonathan Gold’s 2017 101 Best Restaurants. My first impression was a little disappointing because I was unaware that this place had communal dining. This arrangement makes conversation difficult, and the dining experience not as intimate. Jeff, Mickey and Erin seemed fine with it though.

We ordered small plates to share which increases tasting opportunities for which I am always appreciative. The potato and leek beignets were delicious. They were bite size so you got that burst of flavor from the gruyere and horseradish aioli. We ordered the Foie Gras Torchon Toast because we thought we should.  Cauliflower with charred cucumber, yogurt, crispy falafel and mint. was pretty tasty. The Prime Dry-Aged Ribeye Cap was served with California green asparagus, maui onions, chanterelle mushrooms was excellent. The pasta was Corn Agnolotti with brown butter, parmesan and basil. We ordered it as it seems cooking in brown butter is the latest “in” thing. Mary’s Organic Roasted Chicken was baked and served in a skillet with brentwood corn, green and yellow wax beans, sungold tomatoes, and roasted jus. What a convenient coincidence that it was carved in fourths.

Dessert is always a treat no matter what dinner is all about.

The food was very good but there were no OMG moments. Jeff said that maybe because we have eaten in so many fine restaurants in the past and have had  diverse dining experiences, the bar has been raised too high. Number 19 or not, it’s only one person’s opinion, and it’s all subjective anyway, right?

The entire weekend was an early birthday celebration from my son.  Laurel Point, The Last Bookstore, Hotel Figueroa, Republique and a fabulous Sunday brunch prepared by my son’s loving hands. Bloody Marys accompanied by Jennifer’s famous charcuterie tray – a watermelon salad with arugula, feta cheese and berries – granola with fresh fruit, nuts and almond milk – eggs baked in a ramekin with cheese and herbs, followed by a cup of that really tasty Nespresso coffee.

The Other thing – When I texted Jeff the next day to thank him again for the great weekend, he said, “You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it. Next time it’s Bestia (#17 and Providence (#2).”

 

 

City Doings

There was so much going on last weekend with my son that I have to break up my blog posts. So in Jeff’s neighborhood, this is what was going on. Friday night, after a lovely limo ride from Costa Mesa, Jeff, Mickey and I went to Laurel Point for dinner. It is on Ventura Boulevard walking distance from Jeff’s apartment. It was a warm night, so we sat on their covered patio.

This was probably our most relaxing time as the weekend had just begun. Dinner was very tasty. As appetizers, we shared a half dozen Oysters, Spicy Tuna Roll and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  Good so far, huh?

Jeff ordered clam chowder and the Caesar salad with crispy chicken for his entree. Mickey and I broke the sharing rule and both had the John Dory. It was pan seared with pressed lemon butter and served with market vegetables. We broke another rule and did not order dessert.

FYI – It’s Lobster Mondays at Laurel Point.. You get a 1-1/2 pound lobster for $39. I can’t remember the last time I had lobster.

Then lunch in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday at the totally renovated Hotel Figueroa. It was originally built in 1926 as a YWCA. It is Spanish Colonial and located 7 minutes from Staples Center. There are 3 bars and 2 restaurants (Breva and Veranda) conceived by a James Beard award nominee.

We were a little early for lunch at Breva so we had cocktails in the cozy lobby.  Cocktail waitress was not having her best day, but our waiter at lunch was very friendly and on the ball.  Lunch entrees were very good but we must have been really hungry. I have no photos. The table settings were beautiful – fine china with delicate flower designs. The dessert was worth a photo though just to show off the plate on which it was served.

The Other Thing – So many restaurants, so little time. It’s such fun to be a foodie. I’m no expert on anything food related but I know what I like. Dining (not just eating) is one of my favorite things to do. There are a lot of people out there who only eat to live. I think they are missing something.

EATALY L.A.

 

Located in the newly renovated Century City Mall, Eataly occupies multi-levels at one end. It was a Sunday and crowds were everywhere. Eataly L.A. is a duplicate of the one in New York City. It seemed to me that it was a contemporary version of Mercado Centrale in Florence, Italy. The one in Italy though is an incrdible feast for the eyes down every aisle and on every corner. The only area here with any semblance of color is the vegetable and fruit market. This is a place where you need time to stroll and savor what is going on. It would need to be on a week day – less hustle and bustle and more interaction with the vendors.

We ate at Terra, a wood burning Italian Grill.  It is on  the roof (which I think is actually a 5th level) and has a great view of Century City and beyond.

Melanzana for Jennifer. It was a whole roasted eggplant with raisins, capers, pomegranate, agrodolce. Mickey ordered the Verdure Alla Griglia – wood fired organic seasonal vegetables. It did look spectacular. Jeff had the Big Eye Tonno – seared wild tuna, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fines herbes. For me it was pasta. Ravioli Primavera was house-made spring pea ravioli with mint and lemon.

We never pass up dessert no matter how stuffed. Mickey shared a very mocha infused tiramisu served in a canning jar. Quite tasty with an unusual presentation. Jeff had mixed berries, and Jennifer chose a chocolate chocolate something.

This is an intriguing shopping and dining experience if you give it some time. We might have had more traditional Italian food if we had eaten on the 2nd level at La Pizza e La Pasta. They were making the pasta fresh as we walked by.

Level 2 has La Scuola di Eataly, Italian Sweets, Il Gelato, Lavazza Coffee, and The White Moustache where you make your own yogurt with local fruit, granola and White Moustache yogurt.

Besides La Pizza e La Pasta, Level 3 has “prosciutto and cheese heaven”, the local food market,  a bakery, fresh produce, La Piazza wine bar, Il Pesce Cucina fresh fish market, and a wine store.

The Other Thing – I need to give this place a second look. I know I have missed a lot.

 

The Last Bookstore

 

Located at 453 South Spring in downtown Los Angeles, this place is like a city of books!! Two floors are filled with thousands and thousands of books of every genre invented by man. Old and battered books, new best sellers, CDs, DVDs, record albums, scientific journals, wizardry, fantasy, science fiction and futurama – all under one very large roof. This is where all the vintage books go to be adopted or die a quiet death. If you can’t find what you are looking for here, maybe it does not exist.

There is no rhyme or reason to the stacks. There is a tunnel of books, a pile that is crooked, some defy gravity in their attempt to look interesting. It was such fun wandering around – and of course taking lots of photos. It would be easy to spend all day here.

I must mention the 7 book clubs that meet there every month. The names are intriguing. True Crime Tuesdays, The Afrofuturism Book Club, Poetry in the Labyrinth, LA Lit Fic, Feminist Book Club, The Thing in the Labyrinth, and Victorian Literary Parlour. Their marketing postcard reads “Book-Inclusive, with Snacks/Bevs & Professional Moderators”. Wouldn’t you like to be the fly on the wall during one of these meetings.

The Other Thing –  The place was packed with people of all shapes, sizes, ages and degrees of enthusiasm — and this interesting elderly man who was very much into the fantasy section….

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