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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

Crivello’s

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Located at Brookhurst and Adams in Huntington Beach, Crivello’s has been in business for 19 years. Our waiter has been there for 15. They must know something about Italian to have lasted so long. They have a very faithful following – as witness my dining partner for lunch, Julie. This place is one of her favorites.

We ate in the covered patio. It was another hot day in Orange County, but there were ceiling fans. Pasta is one of my obsessions, but the swordfish special sounded tasty. The green salad was crisp and fresh and the vinaigrette one of the best I have tasted. It is the only dressing they serve. Swordfish steak was cut a bit thin so it was a little overcooked. It was still flavorful though, and the fresh spinach with basil pesto cram sauce accompaniment was delicious – as was the penne arrabiata.

Shared dessert was white chocolate gelato. It was so creamy, and with bits of white chocolate in there as little taste bud surprises.
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The Other Thing – Crivello’s is well known for their incredible wine tastings and food pairings. They are different each time. August 29th features wines from Coppolla Winery in Geyserville, CA.  Check that out!

Villa San Carlo

Villa San Carlo is in Cortemelia, a commune in the Province of Cuneo in the Italian region of Piedmont. The original center of Cortemelia is said to be of pre-Roman origin. On a Food and Wine Tour in Italy in 2013, our group was fortunate enough to stay there and experience the incredible culinary skills of the owner and chef, Carlo Zarri. Not surprising is that Carlo is a close friend of our travel agent extraordinaire, Roberto Torrini.

We stayed several nights and enjoyed a special dinner each evening. There was an opening reception for us on the garden patio with wine and cheese. This was followed by a 5-course dinner with wine pairings. (1) Fried Potato Gnocchi with Artichoke Sauce          (2) Traditional Tomato Soup with Crostino Bread (3) Hand-Made Traditional Ravioli with Black Summer Truffles (4) Little Chicken Fillets with Hazelnut Sauce and Smash Potatoes with Red Beet, and (5) Sweet Surprise with Hazelnuts served on a plate with our names written in  Chocolate. Then Carlo made cappuccinos and wished us a good night. He cooked like that for us every night.

There were 3 courses and 2 wines the next night. (1) Nettle Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Hazelnuts (2) Pork Loin with Roasted Peppers, Mixed Greens and Bundled Green Beans (3) Coffee Panacotta with Chocolate Drizzle for dessert.

Carlo took us to his kitchen the next day and taught us how to make Gnocchi which was used in our dinner that night. (1) Our Gnocchi with Tomatoes sautéed in garlic-infused Olive Oil, Caramelized Onions and Fresh Rosemary (2) Two Veal chops served with Raisins and Garlic-Infused Olive Oil and Baby Onions, and (3) Moscato Gelatin with Fresh Berries for dessert. We watched the magic happen in the kitchen with the veal.

The grand finale and our last night in Cortemelia was extra special (as if the others were not!!!) (1) Tuma Cheese Wrapped in Hazelnuts and Served with Caramelized Onions       (2) Risotto with Castelmagno & Rosemary (3) Veal Tenderloin ala Sophia Loren (Her favorite that Carlo always makes for her) with Mixed Vegetable Reduction over Val Wrapped in Filo Dough and Served with Polenta Cake with Spinach Straccialtella. This was carved tableside by Carlo, and (4) His Grandmother’s Pudding for Dessert – plate decorated with strawberries and “Arrivederci” written in Chocolate.

Noted for one of the most famous types of hazelnuts, the Tonda Gentile di Langa, every August the town celebrates it with a Hazelnut Fair. Hence the use of hazelnuts in many of Carlo’s recipes.

The Other Thing – It seems to me that Carlo Zarri could be a Top Chef in America, have his own Food Network show and be the “toast of the town”. But he is content to stay in his lovely Cortemelia and prepare his amazing dishes for his guests. I was thrilled to be one of those very privileged guests!!

Uptown Architecture

My granddaughter lives in the Uptown section of Orleans Parish in New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi between the French Quarter and the Jefferson Parish line. It is a mixed residential area, small commercial and a wealth of 19th Century architecture.

It’s that architecture that is so interesting to see as we walked through the various neighborhoods. No two buildings are alike, some in varying shades of decay, others looking like new.

 

The Other Thing — It’s called The Crescent City, The Big Easy, Nawlins, NOLA and The City That Care Forgot. Whatever you call it, this city is one of  a kind!

 

The Hive, Costa Mesa

What is new and cool in Costa Mesa – THE HIVE! Located on 3333 Susan Street, it is a creative office campus with three newly built buildings, one of which is the home of the Los Angeles Chargers. The foyer of the adjacent building looks like someone’s very nice living room.

Between the two buildings and connected by a glass enclosed hallway, is The Lost Bean Organic Coffee and Tea. This is my new go to place for caffeine and conversation. The atmosphere inside and out is exciting and relaxing at the same time. There are lots of gathering spots, lounge chairs and umbrellas. I notice that the building next door even has bicycles for rent.

Charlene is the coffee oficionado.  She says the beans are roasted just right, and the flavor is rich and full. My drink of choice is Chai Latte which they made iced for me with almond milk. It leaves a gentle tang (perhaps nutmeg) on the tongue that  suits me just fine. The baristas ae friendly and act like they really enjoy working there! This place is definitely a keeper!!

The Other Thing – Its called The Hive for a good reason. When the word gets around about The Lost Bean, this campus will be buzzin’!!

 

Food Faves

It’s my two-year blogging anniversary, and I have been thinking about all my culinary adventures. Out of my 71 blog posts I have picked 11 favorites that are worth mentioning again.

November 2015 Newberry Springs was the last stop on our Route 66 Road Trip. Buffalo Burgers at the Bagdad Café. I loved “Standing on the Corner in Winslow Arizona”. It was very cool even though it had nothing to do with eating.  November 2016  – a friend’s  birthday celebration at Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills – Elaborate sides and salad bar with waiters serving meats on skewers the size of small swords. February 2017 The Whiskey Bread Pudding at the Side Door in Corona del mar, served with raisins and whipped cream, is scrumptious.  June 2017 – Freshly baked muffins with our coffee at The Butcher, Baker, and the Cappuccino Maker (what a great name) in West Hollywood. The patio was so lovely we could have stayed there all day.  Dinner that same day at Rustic Canyon. This gets bolded because we were served one of the best meals I have ever had the privilege to enjoy. Shared plates is a great idea here because everything on the menu sounded so good…… even the luscious lavender almonds served with our cocktails.

November 2017 – Puesto Irvine serves Equisto, a delicious grilled corn with chile, lime, queso and cremaSaint and Second in Belmont Shore in January 2018 was a very pleasant experience from food and service to atmosphere. I especially liked the Apple Pear Shrimp Salad.  My lunch on May 21st was a complete surprise. Benji’s is a coffee shop in Tustin that has been in operation for many years. The food was pretty traditional but very good. The Lemon Marscapone Cake the waitress insisted I order was one of the best desserts I have ever tasted!!

April 29 craving something Cuban called for a trip to the Porto’s in Buena Park. Their Chicken Tamales have the lightest, tastiest masa ever!. During my month long birthday celebration on June 9th at Republique on La Brea in Los Angeles, we were surprised that seating was community tables (not my favorite way to enjoy food). It was very noisy, and the service was slow. The food was good though – especially the Prime Dry Aged Ribeye Cap. Shared plates is still very popular.

I must include Willie Mae’s in New Orleans on my list because they really do serve the “best Fried Chicken in the nation!” It certainly is the best I have ever tasted by far!!!

The Other Thing – Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer-prize winning food critic for the Los Angeles Times passed away on Saturday, July 21st. His annual “101 Best Restaurants” has been my guide. I didn’t always agree with him but he always paid attention food trucks and the little mom and pop operations. He wasn’t always a fan of the “snooty” and ridiculously expensive restaurants. I have only tried 10 out of the 101 but I’m working on it. Mr. Gold will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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