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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Cheers to Servers   Leave a comment

parkwayinterior

Everyone should have at least one special server; the one who remembers, if not your name, at least your preferences; who knows about your kids/parents/pets; who is aware of your aversion to goat cheese.

For my mom, that’s Tim at Parkway Grill in Pasadena. She asks about his shorter commute; he asks how she’s been and remembers what she ordered on her last visit a while back. It’s not flirtatious on either side, but a friendly exchange and genuine interest. This along with the well-prepared food makes the Parkway stand out from the crowd of upscale restaurants.

parkwaybread

We started with drinks, including a lime basil-infused martini that caught my eye. It was strong and refreshing.

The salads are large enough to share, and the Caesar was a nice way to start the meal. I don’t need to see the anchovies, although I like their flavor.

parkwaygrill

parkwayrib

Short ribs are a favorite and something I consider one of my specialties. I’m always curious about different preparations. The braised meat was fork-tender and the taste was good, but it didn’t pose a threat to my recipe. The addition of toasted pine nuts with a dark basil pesto was a nice touch. The mashed potatoes were rich and creamy.

parkwaydessert

Dessert offered several choices, but we settled on a Crème Brulee Napoleon. This spin sandwiched the vanilla custard element of a brulee between flakey pastry.

Goat cheese was never part of the conversation, but it’s nice to know it would have been if necessary.

Parkway Grill
Four-and-a-half Plates
510 S. Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena, Calif.

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Tacos Plus   Leave a comment

 

sal sign

A neighbor who frequently visits Los Angeles shared the names of a few tacos stands he frequents while there. While I didn’t go to any of his recommendations (I’m saving the list for next time), I did enjoy Salazar which isn’t a stand, but a casual eatery serving impressive tacos.

sal tables

This is a dirt-floor establishment with plastic chairs and metal tables. It’s a covered patio complete with live trees, cacti and a Southern California vibe that comes, in part, from the restaurant’s bones. It used to be an auto shop.

The focus now is on hot, fresh from the kitchen corn and flour tortillas and tacos that drip with flavors. The regularly-changing menu also features chilaquilles, machaca, and four different types of tacos – among other items.

sal machaca

The clever plating of the machaca is as appealing to the eye as the meal is satisfying to eat. Braised beef is served in a cast-iron pan set on a thick-wood cutting board. A fried egg sits atop the shredded meat. I ordered tacos, but I enjoyed scooping out the pieces of beef that had caramelized on the bottom of the pan. (I was obviously with a good friend who allowed, perhaps even encouraged, me to do so.)

saltaccos

The tacos were the real treat, particularly the carne asada. Corn tortillas were piled with cubes of marinated steak topped with cilantro and diced red onions. I liked the chicken asada and al pastor for the fresh flavors, but the carne asada are my favorites.

Salazar
Four plates
2490 N. Fletcher Dr.
Los Angeles, CA

The Nos Gotta Go   Leave a comment

ludivine sign

Usually, it’s the company shared while dining that makes the meal. Food is the magnet, and should be more than just sustenance, but good conversation can hide numerous food/service flaws. This was the case at Ludivine in Oklahoma City. The chow wasn’t bad, but couldn’t compete with the camaraderie.

Also, we were told “No!” a lot.

ludivine drink

The restaurant prides itself on farm fresh, or at least locally-procured, ingredients. It’s a small menu with intriguing cocktails, most had references to The Beatles. For example, the Fixing the Hole: Rye whiskey, lemon, egg white, club soda and ice fill a glass, which contains a smaller empty glass into which blackberry-thyme shrub is poured. It’s fun and tasty. A request for gin instead of rye generated the first No, as in no-can-do – or more aptly, no-won’t-do.

In addition to a regular bill of fare, which apparently frequently changes, a chef’s tasting menu is offered. The most enticing course was gnocchi. I hoped to have corn chowder, not on the tasting menu, with the potato dumplings. Nope. Again.

ludivine marrow

There were a few other negative responses from our server, but we had some positive elements on the plates we did order. The roasted bone marrow was as fatty and decadent as one could want and served with plenty of crostini.

ludivine soup.jpg

Besides the drink, the creamy corn chowder was my favorite. For the money, the Waygu steak disappointed. Thankfully, chimichurri saved the meat.

ludivine waygu

Ultimately, the meal was enjoyable thanks to my friends.

Ludivine
Three Plates
805 N. Hudson Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK

Mas Que Tacos II   Leave a comment

Among the surprises during a recent visit to Mexico City was the variety of food. I should have known that cosmopolitan Cuidad de Mexico (CDMX) would be well-represented by cuisines from around the world.

Pizzas Nosferatu has virtually no inside seating, but it’s fun to sit outside with an unobstructed view of the gourmet pies being made. The joven who took our order was friendly and, indeed, young. The thin-crusted pizzas are served on round slabs of wood. The beers available next door were astounding in the quality and variety. We enjoyed the namesake Nosferatu with spinach, ricotta, herbs and fresh ginger. The Henry with pepperoni, onion and tomato was also tasty.

cervesa

Pulled pork and smoked brisket are not foods I associate with Mexico. Now I know better. I can’t wait to return to Porco Rosso Roma. The different spins on beans (spicy frijoles) and onion rings were a treat. Sorry no photos. Next time, though.

We enjoyed breakfast at trendy Delirio Monica Patino. Here the traditional molletes (thick slices of toast topped with melted cheese and beans) had a twist: Greek olive tapanade rather than a tomato-based salsa.


My pesto at Trattoria Giocovanni was a lighter version than what I had in Italy, but the lasagna was pure Italiano.

mexicocityfish

White, mild fish, at Contramar, was exceptional both in its presentation and flavor. Half was coated with a red dried chili rub and the other half with a parsley rub. The tuna tostados and the desserts rivaled the entrees.

mexicocitydesserts

 

 

Mas que Tacos Part I   Leave a comment

It might be a cliché, or at least an exaggeration, but it seems as if there’s a taco stand on every corner in Mexico City. While the made-on-the spot, hand-held typical street food is fresh and tasty, there’s much more to the cuisine than what you’d expect. Nonetheless, this post will focus on what comes to mind when thinking of Mexican food – beyond tacos.

Cabrera mole

Mole is one of my favorites and I had it twice. Both were the dark, Oaxacan versions that were rich, smooth and blended the sweet with the savory. However, my preference was for Cabera 7’s rendition. Although, it was beautifully plated, the chicken arrived cold and had to be sent back to the kitchen. When it did arrive with the proper temperature, it was exceptional. House-made, fresh corn tortillas and white rice helped absorb some of the sauce so none of it went uneaten.

cabrera music

The other mole was at Sanborn’s. This ubiquitous chain has everything: clothing, accessories, a pharmacy, shoes, a restaurant and more. The mole here was too sweet; it lacked the balance that’s the hallmark of the dish. It’s a department store, afterall.

Burritos are less common in Mexico than you might think, but Ensalada y Burritos Gourmet demonstrated what many fast-food burrito chains lack: an abundance of flavor. My thick burrito was packed with pibil, a colorful, more savory-than-spicy version of pulled pork, with rice and black beans.

We did venture away from the standards, but that’s for another post.

Cabrera 7
Plaza Luis Cabrera 7, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Norte,
06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Ensalada y Burritos Gourmet
Coahuila 125,Roma Nte.,
06700 Ciudad de México, D.F.,México, Mexico

No Buttermilk Biscuits Here   Leave a comment

crisp interior

One of my middle son’s favorite foods is fried chicken; I’ve jumped on that band wagon with him. It started with my introduction to Bouchon’s buttermilk rendition. It soon evolved to include waffles. But, for now, I’ll stick to the hens.

When Food and Wine magazine listed the best places in the country to find the crispy comfort food it was like finding a treasure map. The timing was perfect as I was making a trip to Chicago, which boasts three of the 33 on the list. We only had time to try one: Crisp.

crisp chicken

When we wandered into the small, unimpressive order-at-the-counter eatery I was surprised. The preparation here is not what’s served with mashed potatoes and peas. This was Korean fried chicken, which sent my taste buds in a completely different direction than they’d traveled before.

First, diners choose between wings or boneless strips. Then there’s a choice of sauces. These range from plain, slightly sweet, a smoky spicy and a Buffalo spicy. I went with the sweet. Honey, ginger, garlic and soy were the obvious flavors coating crispy pieces of chicken that had been flash-fried twice. They were sticky, thanks to the honey, but not at all greasy.

crisp chickens

Crisp also serve sandwiches, Buddha bowls and Korean burritos. Sides include brown rice, onion rings, greens, kimchee (sic) and shoestring potatoes.

I have my go-to places for traditional fried chicken. Nonetheless, I don’t mind continuing the quest for perfect poultry, especially when I find such different spins like Crisp’s.

crisp inside

Crisp
Four Plates
2910 N. Broadway
Chicago, Ill.

Museum Kitchen Artistry   Leave a comment

 

museum moose

It’s not unusual for museums to have exceptional gift shops and restaurants. The National Museum of Wildlife Art earns kudos for both. The aptly named Palate offers a creative menu and expansive views of the National Elk Refuge just north of Jackson, Wyo.

Several bronze sculptures are visible from U.S. Highway 191, but the collection is more impressive in the museum’s parking lot and lobby. Still, it’s the food that recently garnered our attention.

Salads, pasta, soup and sandwiches comprise the menu. An extensive wine list also available.

We opted to share three plates: the Pork Belly BLT, Bison Gyro and Roasted Green Beans.

palate blt

The BLT had several spins, besides the fact that it featured pork belly. With arrugula and tomato jam, the sandwich was further elevated thanks to lemon caper aioli and sunflower pesto. The works were served on ciabatta making this no ordinary diner mainstay. House-made chips completed the plating.

The gyro was, perhaps, my least favorite. This may have been only because the BLT was so exceptional. Shredded meat with creamy, whipped feta, pickled onion and cucumbers were served on Indian frybread. It was also accompanied by chips.

palate green beans
Almond vinaigrette and thin crispy slices of onion covering the roasted green beans. These were hard to share.

palatedessert

Harder to share was the Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar not only because it was delicious, but it was difficult to cut. The rich peanut butter mouse on a pretzel crust topped with chocolate was like an upscale Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Palate
Four Plates
National Museum of Wildlife Art
2820 Rungius Rd.
Jackson, Wyo