2015-01-26 13.47.26

DineLA – Mistral Restaurant (Winter 2015)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

So first, a quick update: I’m a bit sad to report that Cookie Con was a bust. The event itself was great, I’m sure. It was just such a highly sought-after event that the entry lines wove out into the surrounding neighborhood and the wait was hours-long. We did not miss out completely, however, as the event organizer Nancy was kind enough to send us a small swag package that included The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie from Call Me Cookie (cookies delivered to your door, what?!) and an adorable popsicle necklace from Bakery Charms (so freaking cute I want to collect them all!). Sweet!

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There was one happening that I just had to take part in last week and that’s dineLA Restaurant Week. I met up with a dear friend in her part of town, the Valley, to check out this quaint French bistro for lunch. Situated right on Ventura Boulevard (of course), Mistral has a classy, intimate vibe with warm, inviting service.

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We selected the same appetizer — baby kale and arugula salad, avocado, parmesan shavings, lemon-olive oil. It was a well-composed salad, and I’m an especially big fan of the combination of bitter arugula and fresh lemon. The parmesan added just the right touch of saltiness to season the greens.

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For my entrée, I was pleased to see that the printed menu included an option that I had not seen on the dineLA website — boeuf bourguignon, pearl onions, carrots, turnips, mixed rice. I love a hearty, classic beef stew. The meat was amazingly tender and the wafting aroma of red wine was intoxicating.

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My dining companion chose from the sea — crispy skin imported branzino, red grapes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sweet basil. It was a beautifully plated dish and I could tell the fish was cooked perfectly.

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They say that great minds think alike, so it came as no surprise that we both selected the same dessert as well — miniature chocolate soufflé. The adorable ramekin arrived piping hot with a molten, airy middle and a nice rise of about one inch above the rim. A smaller ramekin carried its sidekick of creme chantilly. I generally dislike whipped cream so I was surprised to find that this was absolutely delicious, not too sweet, fragrant with vanilla, and certainly not from an aerosol can.

After a leisurely two hour lunch of chatting and catching up, we ate this course in silence, savoring our little moment of bliss accompanied by a cup of hot black coffee for me (green tea for her).

This is the life.

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Check out Mistral Restaurant: mistralrestaurant.com

13422 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

See their Yelp reviews here!

LA Cookie Con 1st Annual

One Week till Cookie Con!

Desserts and Sweets, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

That’s right, folks. Los Angeles has a Cookie Convention and it’s coming to the Pasadena Convention Center next Sunday! We were floored by this news and quickly went to their website (lacookiecon.com) to get our tickets to this sure-to-be-awesome event. (I believe our exact reaction was “Cookie Con?! How did we not know about this?!”)

Reality TV buffs will appreciate the celebrity lineup of guests from Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” and Next Food Network Star, Fox’s MasterChef, and more. There will be fondant rolling classes, candy apple making for the kids, and demonstrations for new tools and equipment. But most importantly, the website highlights “hundreds of delicious free samples from national and local vendors, offering an extravaganza of cookies, candy, chocolate, coffee, ice cream, beverages, and unique baked savories too.” SIGN US UP!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

After our chocolate filled adventure at Indulge LA, we know we have to develop a game plan to synchronize our (precious and limited) stomach space and our (ravenous and unrelenting) sweet tooth. Luckily, we will be attending with a pair of friends with whom to share the bounty. I know Martin is going to keep an eye out for the best chocolate chip (his favorite) while I am always game to try unique variations on the traditional cookie (like our limoncello and semolina version).

VIP tickets are already sold out, so grab your GA passes soon if you want to attend the first annual LA Cookie Con! (Psst — sign up for their e-newsletter for a 10% off coupon code!)

As if you needed more convincing, a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. You definitely won’t want to miss out on this chance to stuff your faces while helping to support a great nonprofit. (But in case you can’t make it, stay tuned for our post-event recap with plenty of mouth-watering cookie photos!)

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Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive discounted press tickets to the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

2014-09-28 13.19.28

Farsi Cafe – Westwood, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Happy 2015, dear readers! We hope one of your New Year resolutions was to keep eating good food because that’s definitely what we plan to do. One distinct advantage of living in Los Angeles is its proximity to ethnic cuisines from around the world. Here on the Westside, we’re just a stone’s throw away from Little Persia – the stretch of Westwood Boulevard that is affectionately known as Tehrangeles for its prominent Iranian immigrant population. Waking up with an inexplicable craving for crispy rice one lazy afternoon, we decided to get lunch at Farsi Cafe.

The first thing I noticed when we walked inside the dining room was that it was set up to primarily accommodate large parties; the two of us settled in at a table meant for four. Throughout our lunch, we understood why — there were families of all sizes coming in through the door to share a leisurely meal.

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Our server brought out a basket of flat bread (lavash) along with the traditional plate of butter and raw onion. (We were perplexed but a quick Google search taught us that the onion is meant to accompany the grilled meats and the butter could be either spread on lavash or melted over rice). He also surprised us with a bowl of mast-o khiar (yogurt and cucumber) compliments of the chef. Similar to Greek tzatziki or Indian raita, this cool refreshing dip was the perfect accompaniment to both the plain flat bread and to the spiced grilled meat I ordered for my entree.

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Speaking of entrees, I selected my usual Persian food go-to — the koobideh (ground beef kabob) with rice. The generous portion came with two skewers and a giant mound of rice topped with a smaller pile of saffron infused rice (my favorite!). The typical garnishes of grilled onion, tomato, and bell pepper added that extra smoky charred flavor. The beef was well seasoned, and did I mention how huge the serving was? I got three meals out of it!

2014-09-28 13.19.34Our journey to Farsi Cafe started with the desire for crispy rice so of course, Martin went with the house special tahchin. Each order is served a “slice” of a large “pie” made of crisped saffron rice and shreds of chicken. The slice is then topped with zereshk (barberries), tart little dried currants that pair excellently with chicken (think turkey and cranberry). I stole more than a few bites of his meal and just could not stop myself. It was so good — the crunchy rice, the spiced chicken, the tart berries!

If you’re trying to choose from the many delicious offerings all along Westwood Boulevard, we suggest coming in to Farsi Cafe to try their tahchin, mast-o khiar, saffron rice, and koobideh. And then wash it all down with Persian ice cream at Saffron & Rose just up the street afterward!

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Check out Farsi Cafe: farsicafela.com

1916 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

See their Yelp reviews here!

Happy (Tiny) Thanksgiving!

Uncategorized

Thanksgiving is going to be different for us this year. It is my first year in the service industry, which means that I work on holidays and “normal” weekends. Oh dear… It would seem… I’ve turned into my father. (j/k – love you, Dad!)

I’ve always loved holidays — and it was difficult for me to come to terms with this — but Thanksgiving isn’t about gorging on turkey (or roast chicken or rack of lamb) on the third Thursday of November. It’s not about the side dishes or even the pie or alternative desserts. It’s about spending time with the people you love and being grateful for what you have… and that really should be happening year-round, holiday or not.

So, our dear readers, if you are indeed celebrating tomorrow, we hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving! As happy as the Tiny Hamster in the video. As for us, we’ll be postponing our festivities to a later time and will gladly share any new recipes we test out. Cheers!

(Many thanks to our friend Genie at Bunny Eats Design for the inspiration to share the video.)

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Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

The holiday season is upon us and you know what that means — it’s time for a few easy-to-make yet impressive-looking desserts that you can add to your repertoire for wowing guests! Case in point: before I stumbled upon this article on The Kitchn, I had never even considered making panna cotta at home. And now that I’ve seen the light, I could not imagine spending $14 on it at a restaurant ever again (unless there are some really special flavor combinations going on…). It’s that easy and oh so versatile to customize to your liking. I had some blueberries in the freezer from our visit to a pick-your-own blueberry farm in Santa Barbara over the summer, but you are welcome to use any seasonal fruit to pair with the silky smooth pudding. Just a slight note, this basic recipe involves gelatin and refrigeration to set, unlike the traditional Italian recipe which uses egg whites and is baked in a bain marie.

Panna Cotta Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1-ounce envelope of powdered gelatin (or 4 gelatin sheets, bloomed in ice water)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Set up a double boiler if you have one, or bring a small pot of water to a boil and nestle a heat-safe bowl (Pyrex, for example) over it. Add milk and sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface. Let sit for 1-2 minutes to bloom the gelatin. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk well to completely dissolve the sugar. It should have a silky texture with no grittiness. Heat the mixture until it is barely simmering. Pour in the cream and continue to cook until the mixture has warmed to room temperature. (If it is too hot, just set aside to cool a bit before pouring into the molds.) Pour into ramekins or serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set. The texture will be wobbly and much more delicate than jello. Serve cold.

Blueberry Compote Ingredients:

2 cups frozen blueberries, divided

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons honey

Dash of ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of blueberries with the water, honey, and cinnamon. Simmer over medium-low heat until the fruit starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Using the back of a spoon, gently mash the berries into a coarse puree. Add the remaining 1 cup of blueberries and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the whole berries are warmed through and the mashed berries have formed a sauce-like consistency. Serve warm.

The blueberry compote also tastes great as a topping for ice cream, pancakes, waffles, even steel cut oatmeal! Once it has cooled, I transferred the leftover compote to a glass jar and kept it in the refrigerator for about a week. It could probably keep longer if you’re into canning jams and whatnot, but the compote is so delicious that it will magically disappear quite quickly!

I know it’s been a long time since we’ve posted a recipe on this blog, but I hope you enjoy this two-for-one. We did not include step-by-step photos this time, but trust me, it’s just THAT easy. If you try either of them at home, please let us know what you think!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better knowing now that panna cotta is just so easy to make!

This month is hosted by Linda at The Orange Bee.

Cheers!