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California Cuisine

Redd Wood – Yountville, CA

Whether you’re spending your day wine tasting or are just looking for a great spot for lunch (or breakfast/dinner), you should definitely stop by Redd Wood in Yountville.  Located next to the boutique hotel North Block Hotel (and not far from French Laundry), it’s the perfect place to have an easy, unpretentious meal that’s satisfying, not super heavy and overall a place that you’ll want to go back to.  This is Michelin-starred chef Richard Reddington’s second Yountville spot, his first being Redd which is equally fabulous but oh so different.  *You’ve got to try that spot if you haven’t already!

The decor is very current/urban and comfortable.  Kind of reminds me of a place you’d find in Soho with a California feel.  There’s outdoor seating which is always a great option, especially for someone like myself who doesn’t get the opportunity to eat outside a ton at home.

I stopped in midday for a bite in between wine tastings and was very happy with my order – the shaved summer vegetable salad which couldn’t be fresher and the proscuitto, arugula and parmesan pizza.  I’d love to go back for dinner to try some pastas and main courses.

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Not too long ago I got a Daily Candy SF (I still subscribe to be “in the know” of all things San Francisco) advertising a new website/company called Kitchit that acts as a search engine for chefs in the Bay Area that are for hire for private events.  They also cater to Los Angeles and New York…hopefully Seattle in the near future:)  Whether it’s a casual dinner or formal affair, there are chefs and budgets to fit any situation.  The website makes it easy to check out each chefs profile and what they’re capable of not to mention you can read reviews from others that have used them.  Pretty easy!

My good friend Jen hired Chef Anne Olsen for her fiancé’s surprise 40th birthday party and the whole night was amazing!!!  She started us with a gorgeous farmers market crudité platter and then followed it up with an unbelievable first course of burrata with favas, English peas and speck.  Next was oven roasted Halibut with Meyer lemon gremolata, pan fried baby potatoes, spring herbs and créme fraiche.  For dessert…baked Alaska!!!  All in all it was an outstanding night start to finish and I would recommend Chef Olsen and Kitchit to anyone!

Rotisserie & Wine – Napa, CA

I’m a huge fan of Tyler Florence already but this just confirmed it even more.  Located in the heart of Napa with a patio facing the Napa River, he’s opened another fantastic restaurant that is the perfect spot for any occasion.  A thanks to his wife Tolan, his personal interior decorator, the decor couldn’t be more or a perfect marriage with the food.  Rustic yet refined, it’s a comfortable spot that has managed to still be current.  Whether it’s a casual lunch (like i enjoyed) or a birthday get together, you’ve got to try it!

The best surprise ever was the warm cornbread that came out before our meal.  I seriously could have eaten tons of it but had to remind myself of all the food coming.  My husbands R&W cheeseburger looked incredible.  With the fried egg on top it was a little hard to share so lucky him…he got it all to himself.  My salad was perfect for the middle of the day, especially since we had the deviled eggs as starters.

And don’t forget about his tempting kitchen store next door – Tyler Florence West Coast Kitchen Essentials.  I could spend all day in there:)  Here’s where you can get your hands on the pots and pans Chef Florence uses in his restaurants and at home as well as other top brands.   His spice rubs and marinades make amazing hostess and holiday gifts.  I’d be amazed if you walked out without purchasing anything:)

Complementary cornbread to start your meal with…yum!

Deviled eggs with fried capers, shallots and thyme oil

Chop salad – pulled chicken, bacon, avocado, jack cheese and a garlic vinaigrette

R&W Cheeseburger with an added fried egg

Spencer’s – Palm Springs, CA

This was my first time to Spencer’s but it won’t be my last.  Nestled up again the San Jacinto Mountains, the setting is beautiful and I can only imagine what it would be like at night seeing that we were there to enjoy a late lunch.  Outside on the patio under the trees is by far the best seat in the house – it’s no wonder they won the award for Best Outside Dining:)

The menu is American with hints of Asian and Mediterranean influences.  Being a hot afternoon I chose the Baja Shrimp Salad.  It came with roasted corn, avocado, tomatoes and tortilla strips with a lemon tequila dressing…yum!  I added a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt…DE-lish!

Porta Via – Beverly Hills, CA

A new found breakfast spot…and I like it!  I’ll be totally honest, there were probably only 4 tables filled while we were there and they service was painfully slow but the food was excellent and I would definitely go back.  Nothing about the menu (lunch and dinner included) is crazy different but it’s good food, good quality and well done therefore a success in my book.  Definitely worth a try.  It’s much more relaxing than most places I’ve tried in the area for breakfast not to mention the price is definitely right!

Chicken, Spinach & Onion Egg White Omelet – breakfast potatoes (I subbed fruit) & toasted baguette

The Blvd – Beverly Hills, CA

There’s no better place in Beverly Hills to eat well and have the best people watching right in front of you.  Located in the timeless Beverly Wilshire at the tail end of Rodeo Drive, The Blvd comes with a high price tag but it’s THE quintessential Beverly Hills experience.

Almost every time I’m there I get the Seafood Salad.  It’s changed over the years but is never disappointing to me and comes with the highest quality of seafood one would expect for a $33 salad.  My husband started with the Lobster Salad which was divine.  I especially loved the green apple.  It added such a lovely acidity and made the dish perfectly balanced.  For his entrée he got the Veal Schnitzel…whoa…I had a tinge of order envy but luckily he was nice enough to give me a couple of bites.  The veal was pounded thin and cooked to perfection.  So tender and full of flavor…this was definitely a success.  My only advice is to add a good squeeze of lemon juice on top.  It brightens the dish and makes it not as heavy tasting.

Just to name a few, Bob Green, Mariel Hemingway and André Leon Talley were all dining there the last time I was there for lunch.  Does it get much better than that?!  Go!

Great selection of breads

Maine Lobster Salad – green apple, avocado, jicima, lemon oil vinaigrette

Seafood Salad – pickled butternut squash, octopus, prawns, lobster, scallops, white port and hazelnut oil

Veal Schnitzel – fingerling potato salad, red radishes, lemon butter

Urth Caffé – Beverly Hills, CA

A favorite of mine and a must every time I go down to BH, I love Urth Caffé and I always order the same thing for breakfast  – the Urth Parfait.  It’s SO good!  I totally think of Entourage every time I eat there…and keep thinking I’ll run into E or Vince Chase but nope.  Back to the food…everything is so fresh and tasty.  My mom once ordered the quiche and I swear, it may have been one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  They have to use a good amount of cream because the texture and flavor was like none other.  One thing I’m dying to get next time are the Eggs Verde – two soft poached organic eggs over a bed of arugula, roasted corn, baby tomatoes and poached asparagus spears tossed with peppercorn dressing, garnished with cracked pepper and chive oil served with toasted whole wheat bread.  Seriously?!  Sign me up!

Blue Barn Gourmet – San Francisco, CA

I’m not even exaggerating when I say this is one of my favorite salads.  And I miss it everyday.  The Tostada Salad (minus the cheddar cheese) at Blue Barn on Chestnut in San Francisco is perfect.  There’s tons of texture and the dressing is to die for…light, spicy…it perfectly compliments all the fresh ingredients in the bowl.  I always forget to add a protein (I’m too focused on the actual salad) but I’d love to try some grilled garlic shrimp or chopped chicken on it.  The salads are huge so one option is to get it to go undressed, that way you can save half for leftovers.  Once upon a time I used to order sandwiches – Turkey was my go to – but now I’m totally devoted to the salads.  With 8 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu, you can’t go wrong:)  Prices may seem a little high to some but it’s worth it!  And you won’t leave hungry so that’s a plus.

The Bazaar – Beverly Hills, CA

WOW! I left this meal a little speechless. The Bazaar honestly blew my mind. José Andrés is truly a molecular gastronomy genius. Located in the swanky SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, The Bazaar is bizarre (no pun intended). I didn’t look up the restaurant before we headed there (very unlike me) and although I didn’t know what to expect I DID know that it would most likely be fabulous based on what I know about Chef Andrés. Oh was it! This place is UNBELIEVABLE!!! It’s kind of like a mad museum…weird artifacts, photos, art, chairs, every turn you take. No two tables are the same. They even have you move to a different location in the restaurant (The Patisserie) for dessert.

We ate ourselves silly at this dinner and I don’t regret it one bit. In fact, I’m DYING to go back and can’t wait to explore the menu even more. Below are my favorites from the night. We ordered a good 20-22 dishes between 4 of us…they recommend 4-5 per person so we were pretty much on track (at least that’s what I’m telling myself:)).

Dessert is a whole other ballgame. Although the menu is significantly smaller it’s just as daunting because everything sounds so interesting and delicious. Aside from your “normal” dessert selections there are cookies, cakes, tarts, candy, pate du fruit, etc…and luckily, you’re able to give yourself a tour of the “others”…photo at the bottom. You’re stuffed and yet you want to try a little of everything. This place is dangerous:)

Market Fish Ceviche and Avocado Roll – jicama, micro cilantro and coconut

King Crab - raspberries, raspberry vinaigrette

Not Your Everyday Caprese - cherry tomatoes and liquid mozzarella

Japanese Taco – grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi, and chicharron

King Crab Mini-Sandwiches – pickled cucumbers, steamed buns

Smoked Yellowtail and Crispy Rice – yoghurt, grapes, capers, radish

Just Shrimp Cocktail“Yeah Right”

Ottoman Carrot Fritters – apricots, pistachio sauce

Sautéed Shrimp – garlic, guindilla pepper

Seared Squid – artichokes, chicken escabeche

Lemon Artichokes – black olive tapenade, dandelion

Baby Japanese Peaches – Di Stefano buratta, hazelnuts, arugula

The Patisserie

Chocolate, a cookie and a bonbon that I chose…yum!

Happy Birthday Kathy!

Yes…this is the restaurant. It doubles as a store and you can buy everything from coffee table books to fine jewelry to skull shaped candles. Eclectic one might say.

Spago (lunch) – Beverly Hills, CA

Although this is somewhat of a duplicate I thought it was deserving and different enough seeing that it was lunch this time, not dinner.  Spago is one of my favorite spots in BH that never disappoints.  On a recent trip down to the land of sun and skinny beautiful people who walk like they’re someone but aren’t, we dashed from the airport straight to lunch to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday.  Wolfgang himself even made an appearance which was warm welcomed.  It should not surprise you that the first thing we ordered was a round of tuna cones.  I really can’t be more enthusiastic about them.  I’ll spare you my thoughts…just order them!

Next we all split the House Smoked Salmon Pizza with shaved onions and dill créme fraiche and salmon pearls (aka salmon roe) – too big for one person and plenty to split amongst five as a starter.  Similar in concept to the Smoked Salmon (and Sturgeon) and Blinis but the pizza itself has more substance to it.  Not a light dish in the slightest but delicious in every bite.

For my main course I was sold on the Japanese BBQ Salmon Salad with cucumber, avocado, pickled vegetables, seaweed, butter lettuce and ponzu.  This was SUCH a good choice!  I will go back and eat this over and over if I can.

Because of the birthday celebration we had to indulge in a little dessert so the birthday girl chose the Candy Apple with honey poached fuji apples, salted pretzel puff pastry, apple cider caramel, and Tahitian vanilla ice cream…whoa…talk about the perfect ending.  This was so much better than I could have imagined it to be.  Well done Sherry Yard!  It’s not wonder she won “Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation.

 

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