Lala’s is located in the trendy area of Ventura Blvd in Studio City. A hip little area of sushi, bars, small plates and burgers gives variety to the valley locals. On a very special evening with my sweet friend Bryn, we decided that we would like to dine at Lala’s Argentinean Grill. Both of us had passed it many times throughout the years, but never stopped to try it. On Monday night the outdoor patio of the warm spring evening was packed with people. Families celebrating special occasions, special events, couples out to dinner and large parties all enjoying the modern atmosphere, plates of food and good company.
Lala’s is modern in its appearance with subtle ambiance and plenty of seating. The menu is very large with many different options for diners. As we sat to share in a bottle of wine, our waiter was pleasant, but absent for water refills and the finer details of excellent customer service. The service wasn’t terrible, but just not something to really write home about.
As we looked over the menu, Bryn decided on Mahi Mahi and mashed potatoes and I decided that I would try an appetizer sampler of empanadas with one cheese, one spinach and one beef; a tortilla de papa and grilled chorizo; and an arugula salad. As we discussed celebratory events and enjoyed food, wine, and each other’s company, I found the food to be interesting and delicious. The empanadas had a wonderful crust and each of the fillings was piping hot. I liked the addition of deliciously garlicky chimmichuri and tomato salsa. The tortilla de papa was very different. It was a wedge of seasoned potatoes that were cooked till just tender, but still able to hold their shape. The chorizo was a little underwhelming, but the sausage had good texture—I just wish it had a bit more flavor. Bryn’s fish was cooked well and she seemed to enjoy her food. My salad had a light dressing, but was more lettuce than anything else. Overall, the experience was nice. It was good to have a different sample of Argentinian food with great company.
Congratulations on your new job, Bryn. I’m so proud of you and excited for your new journey!
Holiday time is upon us. I’m sure that everyone’s kitchen is so busy this time of year—I know mine is. Maleeya celebrated her 2nd Hanukkah this year and I decided to whip up a few delectable dishes to make lighting the candles a little more special. I think I need a little more practice on my matzo balls, but the soup itself was rather flavorful. My brisket was very tender, which I was grateful for, and my latkes came out crisp and delicious. No matter what wonderful holiday you’re celebrating this year with your families, I hope it is warm and bright with all the love and happiness possible.
Potato Latkes with Homemade Apple Sauce
Matzo Ball Soup with Braised Chicken and Fresh Dill
Braised Beef Brisket with Onion Gravy and Broccoli
Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating the festival of lights!
On our way home from Mammoth we have some mandatory stops to make. Most of the time we have to get gas for the ride home, so we stop at an Indian reservation that has a casino on its land and a gas station to fill up. My mom puts in $5 at a slot machine and tests her luck and then we’re off to the next stop. My brother and dad like to get beef jerky from Mahogany Smoked Meats and we get cheese bread and raisin bread from Schatz bakery. This time we also stopped for breakfast at the Village Cafe in Bishop. The Village Café is a strange place off a dusty road and they are only open five days a week from 7 a.m. till 2 p.m. with the exception of some special days of the month when they may be open for dinner, but you’d have to stop by to know.
The Village Café looks like it was formerly someone’s home. The structure is almost that of a single-story house where you’d be eating in the den of grandma’s country-style flat. My dad jokingly said the bathroom is down past the living room where they’re watching TV, make sure to say hi as you pass by, and honestly it looks like that. Small town folks trying to make a living rustling up some grub—I like it.
So as we all arrived, we had a sampling of many items off the menu. I ordered grilled pork chops with home fries and eggs over easy, with gravy on the side and a biscuit; my mom had corned beef hash, which came out burnt so they had to make another one; my dad had a delicious ham steak, eggs and potatoes; my brother had French toast; my sister-in-law had lobster eggs Benedict; and my grandma had eggs with a biscuit and gravy. I really enjoyed my pork chops; they were lightly floured and cooked on a flat top and the gravy was good, but I’m glad I got it on the side because it would have been way too much if I hadn’t.
The wait staff and everyone in the restaurant were so nice to us, always checking that we had everything we needed. It was really an enjoyable breakfast before the long ride back to Los Angeles.
Mammoth has some quintessential eateries that frequent visitors are sure to know about, one being The Stove. The Stove is known for its country-style old ways and is almost always packed, no matter when or what time it is. They have homemade pies, large waffles, scrambled eggs and every other breakfast thing that you’d normally see, but this time we didn’t eat breakfast there, we opted for dinner. Sometimes I have qualms about eating at breakfast places for dinner, well most times, but my brother insisted this is where we needed to go, probably because the $14.95 prime rib dinner was definitely calling his name.
Because we knew this place would be crowded, we arrived a little before the restaurant opened for dinner at 5 p.m. We made the correct assumption because three other cars soon followed us into the lot and as we stood in line, we took a couple of pictures of the beautiful surroundings to pass the time. As five o’clock quickly approached, the line began to grow steadily and we were sat by a nice hostess. Our waiter came over, got drinks and brought us a crumby mess of dry cornbread and muffins to the table; not my preference, but somewhat rustic. We glanced over our menus and decided on prime rib being the ideal dish for me, my brother, mom and dad. My sister-in-law had chicken fried steak and my grandma had liver and onions. I don’t know who orders liver and onions when they go out, but that was a mess of a dinner if I ever saw one. Lesson learned: don’t order liver and onions again, Granny. Our prime rib came out tender and juicy. I had red potatoes and mixed vegetables with mine and we also got a dinner salad.
As the restaurant continued to fill up, we were glad we came in early. For the most part, our food was pretty good and a hefty portion for anyone to put down. My sister-in-law loves desserts so she ordered an apple bread pudding with whiskey sauce and ice cream, on the recommendation of our waiter. It was really delicious and a very large piping hot portion. Dinner at The Stove with the family was home-style and comforting, one of those stick-to-your-ribs meals you enjoy every now and again.
I love food. It’s something that always makes me happy, challenges me, enlightens my senses, creates a sense of joy, and never ceases to carry my interest for more. And as you can see, I’m happily immersed in it most of the time. Lately, my time has shifted—I’ve taken on other ideas, other relationships, and opened myself up to a ton of new possibilities. I’m in my second week of Intensive Yoga Immersion at Rising Lotus Yoga to become a Yoga Teacher, but I find myself a student of more than I could possibly have imagined. I’m open to the experience and I don’t know what will come, so all I can do is keep an open mind, be honest, and show myself a little compassion along the way. I hope everyone can approach life with this sort of childish delight. I feel similarly like I did when I enrolled in culinary school; it’s a whole new world and one I know will be life changing. Balancing yoga, life, family, love, cooking, friends and everything else is still something I’m getting used to and will always be adjusting and learning from. Recently, I’ve learned it’s not easy realigning almost 27 years of thoughts, habits and patterns I never even knew I had. As I write here, I want to share of some of the actions I’ve taken in my own cooking and when cooking with others, to keep myself aligned in my own way.
Whole Chicken two ways Left Pomelo and Garlic Grilled Chicken Right Butter, Herbs and Bacon Oven Roasted Chicken center Creamed Spinach and Roasted Herb Potatoes with a Herb Brandy Cream Sauce
Shrimp and Broccolini Yaki Soba
Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry with Sliced Rib Eye Steak
Baby Mixed Greens with Fire Roasted Red Peppers, Tangerine Segments and Crumbled Bacon with White Balsamic Dressing
Grilled Crostini, Roasted Pearl Onions, Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Mushrooms
Sometimes living deliciously in devilish decadence is just necessary.
I cook often. If I could blog as easily as it seems for me to whip something up to eat in the kitchen, I’m sure I could fill another four blogs with my recipes. But as most of you know, I cook with more intuition than I do with recipes. Recipe writing is an art, a skill, a talent and I’m trying my hardest to be able to do more of it, but sometimes it’s very difficult for me to do so because I was never taught to cook from recipes; I was taught by watching the people I love, make the food they love. I hope even if there aren’t recipes per se on my blog about everything I cook, if you’re curious about how to make something or how I’ve made something, you do a little research – say hello, drop me a tweet, facebook comment, e-mail, or whichever way we chat, let me know and I’ll come up with a way for you to make it happen. Here are some of the dishes I’ve photographed in the last week of ideas and meals we’ve enjoyed at home. I want to come back and write recipes for them all, hopefully one day I will. But here are the descriptions and a couple of quick recipes. I hope you enjoy these tasty ideas.
Romaine Hearts and Arugula Salad with Minced Beet, Pears, Pistachios, Avocado, Cucumber and Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 romaine heart, cored and sliced into small pieces
8 oz arugula
1 large beet, boiled or roasted, peeled and minced into small pieces
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup of shelled pistachios
1 pear, peeled and thinly sliced
½ hot house cucumber, sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
To make dressing
Add balsamic, honey and Dijon together and add a pinch of black pepper and salt. Mix together well and then slowly pour in extra virgin olive oil till incorporated. Use less or more oil for your desired consistency.
Combine all vegetables in large bowl, except for beets, and toss with vinaigrette.
Before serving, sprinkle on minced beets and consume.
Black Pepper and Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with White Wine Cherry Tomato Basil Sauce and Lemon Zest served aside Roasted Red Potatoes
Roasted Red Potatoes
Approx. 3 lbs of medium to small-sized red potatoes, quartered and washed, but not peeled
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced sage
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
4 cloves garlic, minced
In a large pot, add red potatoes, cover with cold water and add salt to taste.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook potatoes in water until almost done, about 15-20 minutes, but still having firmness when poked with a fork.
Drain water from the potatoes.
Place the potatoes in large bowl and add a couple pinches of salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, and ½ of the oil, incorporate well and place on a large baking sheet. Then pour the rest of the oil over the top of the potatoes.
Put the potatoes in preheated oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Take potatoes out and shake and stir them loose to roast other sides another 10-12 minutes, till crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.
Serve with your favorite meat or vegetables.
Carrot California Chile Colorado with Braised Beef served over Black Rice with Roasted Beet Greens and Garlic and Romaine topped with Avocado
Sliced Turkey, Roasted Zucchini, Mushrooms, Almond Butter, Spicy Carrots and Rice Noodles topped with Almond Cilantro “gremolata”
New York Strip Milanese (New York Steak seasoned with cumin, coriander, black pepper and lemon, then breaded in panko and deep fried) served with Slow-Cooked Black and Pinto Beans with Roasted Garlic and Tomato Spanish Rice
Potato, Sausage and Kale soup with Red Pepper Flakes and Parmesan
A very dear friend of mine asked me about a month ago if I would be able to help cater his 26th birthday for about 14 people. Of course I obliged, birthdays are my very favorite times to cook for others. As you’ve seen I’ve cooked for about every family member’s birthday I can lately but it was nice to do a sort of family and friends style elegant dining which I believe was our theme. We upped the stakes with a multitude of dishes complementing the flavors of summer in California. I worked with the very talented and awesome Chef Tony who attended culinary school and decided to work in a different field but still enjoys cooking for other very much. I hope to work with him again someday, thank you for all your hard work Tony, beautiful job! I want to thank Guy for giving us the opportunity to work in his beautiful home and just being an amazing friend. Guy and I have been friends since the 6th grade, he shares a deep passion for awesome food. I love you Guy may life be enjoyed with love, happiness, friendship, of course food, and fun.
The menu was as follows
Pancetta Wrapped Gorgonzola Stuffed Shrimp
Crostini – (Roasted Mushroom and Parmesan, Sweet Pepper & Caper, Zucchini & Gorgonzola, and Brie & Pear)
Beet Salad – Baby Spinach Marinated in Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette, Red & Golden Beets w/ Candied Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Baby Mixed Green and Arugula Salad with Mango Pico de Gallo, Roasted Red Peppers, Cayenne Croutons and Passion Fruit Vinaigrette
Homemade Balsamic BBQ Chicken Breast
Mixed Veggie Skewers (Red Onion, Mushroom, Tomato, Peppers, Zucchini)
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Kebab with Chimichurri
Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Lemon Beurre Blanc and Sauteed Asparagus and Bacon
Roasted Cauliflower with Artichoke, Parmesan, and Pistachio
Whole Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Roasted Garlic and Herbs
Saffron Curry Rice
As I return from the multitude of trips (Seattle and Mammoth Lakes, Ca) I’ve had this month and also my birthday which just passed on the 20th I have so much to share. I hope you all haven’t gone too far because I have so much to offer in the coming weeks. I hope all is well and you’re taking full advantage of the beautiful summer which is so swiftly dissapearing.
All my love and gratitude
I’ve been cooking a good amount. I mean eating is a priority in my life but cooking is the means to the madness.
I haven’t been motivated to write, seeing as it’s just a medium to which I love to get my food out there, sometimes I just crave the visual satisfaction of pictures and the instant gratification of cooking and serving. I think that’s how I distinguish my true passion for food… a chef normally doesn’t have to explain the small lingering process it kind of comes together in a magical sense of who knows what’s going to happen. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
Sometimes it’s amazing, most of the time you can improve on some part of it… composition, plating, flavor, techniques there’s always something that can make it better. I love that. Though I believe I’m pretty hard on myself for a lot of things sometimes too much, there’s always that drive as a chef to be better to try new things, to create on a new level, as often as possible so that’s where I am right now.
My cooking is about perfecting the favorites, fixing the flourishes, and most of all creating a new experience each time. I used to think all the time about first dining or one night stand dining (a little cruder concept). I know that seems a bit strange but let me explain. I’m an experience junky. I love that first everything. The first time you try something, the first time you do it right, the first time you see something that changes your life, all those firsts are the feelings that I really love, remember, and dream about.
I think adventure in food is missing for lots of people. They eat the same things every day and their comfortable with those things so they just feel like why should you change something that already works. I can’t live like that. I mean I wouldn’t say that I’m not like that either. We all are but part of my process of cooking is about trying to really break you out of those routine habits and expecting that this time your turkey club is going to be a roast turkey dinner. No I don’t think people really think that but I hope you get what I’m saying
I think even if you change small things in the tried and true recipes you never know it could get better if not put it back to the way it was before. I believe that a lot of things should be left alone too all those sentimental foods that people associate with certain things which is what first dining/ one night stand dining encompasses. It’s the belief that dishes are what they are in that instant and some things aren’t duplicated again in your life you just remember them the way they are. I’ve eaten at places where this was just the case. I ordered something and it was so amazing that even if I had it again it was made the same way everything it still would never be that feeling of what it was. It all lends to the experience, the atmosphere, the moment, the company all those outside things are what I believe is a true dining experience. If I was in the company of the best chef in the world and there was no experience I wouldn’t have the best meal of my life. But I could be sitting on a curb eating a tuna melt with my best friend and it could be the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten. That’s why I’ve always loved food. I love the way it brings people together. I used to stand around a group of microwaves eating whatever my line cooks could put together in 3 minutes and we would have some of the best meals ever. They were just that the meals we had together, one night stands.
My theory of food is very long, ever growing, and I think about it all the time. Food is ever changing and that’s what I love about food in general. I’ll never be bored, never have to have the same things, I just need to look outside of my comfort zone like so many others and I can find instant inspiration in so many places. It’s really a beautiful thing.
Here’s some of my visual process and when the writing finally escapes me I’ll have the explanations and recipes hand written with all my love.
Worcestershire and dill shreaded chicken with herb and garlic wild rice topped with balsamic raw zucchini and oven roasted eggplant
Oven roasted Crushed black pepper and Thyme encrusted russet potatoes, with braised honey carrots and Balsamic, brown sugar, red chili rubbed tri tip.
Spiced asian black goma (sesame seed) boneless chicken legs pan fried in katakuriko (Japanese potato starch) served along side Roasted celery, scallion, shredded cabbage and red onion Oyster sauce Rice noodles
Monterrey jack and roasted balsamic vegetable salad over romaine lettuces with fresh made sourdough and smoked paprika croutons
Pineapple orange sweet and sour chicken with roasted peppers and red onions
Thanks for enjoying my randomness
As always thanks to all my LJ buddies for keeping an eye on me.
And Everyone taking a peek from foodbuzz and twitter
Thank you guys! You are all an awesome inspiration