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You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

April 10, 2011

Yours truly has taken a leap and…drumroll please…I’ve moved to my own site! 

www.dishful-thinking.com is this blog’s new home.  You’ll notice a snazzier layout, complete with pink polka dots :)

So update your RSS feeds, Google Readers, other various blog following technologies, and for you e-mail subscribers, submit your address via this form: http://www.dishful-thinking.com/subscribe/

See you over in the land of my own domain!

Bottega Louie in DTLA

April 2, 2011

I’ve moved!  Visit http://www.dishful-thinking.com

 

Bottega Louie has a very “New Yorky” feel, despite it being located in the heart of downtown.  Serving macarons at the corner of 7th and Grand, the restaurant takes up the bottom floor of this gorgeous architectural beauty.

It’s a self-proclaimed restaurant and gourmet market, but from both times I’ve been there I find that the Bottega’s lacking in the latter.  The restaurant and patisserie is where all of the vitality is.  While the selection in the “gourmet market” is on the slim side, I was ecstatic to see that they were selling Intelligentsia coffee beans.  I obviously went home with a bag :)

Sadly, they don’t take reservations.  The wait seems to be roughly 40-45 ish minutes on the weekend for dinner.  I’ve gone on the early side at 6 and I’ve gone on the later side at 8, and I’ve had to wait both times.  They do have an open kitchen that invites gawking, so that helps pass the time.  As does perusing the patisserie…

The highlight of the patisserie are the gorgeous, vibrant macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroons).  Note to anyone visiting Bottega Louie: order your macarons before you even sit down.  Both times I’ve been there, they have run out of at least 2 flavors.  I went home with a box of these as well :)

The flavors are interesting, but in the very best way.  I took home some cappuccino, rose and earl grey flavored macarons.  I’m partial to anything rose flavored, but I was happily surprised by the earl grey macarons.  Yum.

The first time I dined here was for a friend’s birthday.  Good job on the restaurant find, Alicia!  (and happy belated birthday!)  I’m now officially hooked.

The food was good, but nothing very inventive and nothing really blew me out of the water.  I’m mostly in love with the macarons and the atmosphere.  If I can’t hop on a plane to NYC, I can at least head downtown and eat here :)

On Alicia’s birthday dinner menu, we had…

Burrata Pizza, Trenne Pasta, Prosciutto and Seasonal Fruit

Short Ribs Brasato, Modena Salad, Portobello Fries

The highs and lows from what I tried:
The fruit was sweet, but the prosciutto wasn’t the best I’ve had.  The short ribs were super juicy and the modena salad was wonderful (although at $12 for a butter lettuce salad and some cheese and nuts was a bit steep).  The portobello fries are seriously overrated.  I’m going to have to disagree with you yelpers!

The second time was the Saturday before the LA marathon to carbo load with 3 friends who were crazy enough to run 26+ miles.  In the unusual March cold.  In the non-stop pouring rain.  With hypothermia and a stress fracture (I’m talking to you, Brittany!)

To carbo load, we had (yes, including myself who did not run the marathon ;)):

Tomato Bruschetta, Pepperoni Pizza, Modena Salad (refer to photo above), Trenne Pasta (again, photo above), Chicken Carcioffi

The bruschetta was meh, the pizza was good (but no Mozza), loved the crispy trenne and the chicken carcioffi was artichokey and acidic, but still good.

Dessert was a spectacular Butterscotch Budino, which essentially is a creamy custard like butterscotch dessert, topped with extremely salted caramel.  YUUUUM!!!!

This place is perfect for groups, but a bit difficult to sustain a more intimate conversation, given the restaurant’s enormous echoing space.  The service can be hit or miss, but I found the wait staff to be friendly nonetheless.  I’ll be back if for nothing else, to pick up more macarons.

Angelini Osteria (again)

March 28, 2011

I’ve moved! Visit http://www.dishful-thinking.com

 

The International Food Club (IFC…still looks like “Independent Film Channel” to me…) was back at it again this month, this time visiting Italy via Angelini Osteria.  I won’t ever turn down a trip to my favorite (so far!) Italian restaurant in the city.

EXCUSE ME WHILE I FOODIE GEEK OUT FOR A MOMENT.  Top Chef fans out there will understand my utter elation when I spotted Carla Hall (Season 5 and most recently, All-Stars) dining in the same restaurant.  Whilst residing in LA, I’ve become accustomed to spotting a few famous faces, but have never really felt the inclination to be a rabid fangirl.  (Although let’s be real.  If Justin Timberlake or Leonardo DiCaprio were to be within eyesight, I might actually pass out.  I clearly have not outgrown my childhood obsessions cough NSYNC and Titanic cough).  But I digress.

After a few encouraging words from the table (and Adam’s pretend restroom trip to get me to move out of my chair), I mustered up the courage and walked up to Carla’s table.  Let me point out that I did wait until they had finished eating and they’d already paid the bill.

I bring along Christina as the photographer.  In what quite possibly could have been my geekiest fangirl voice EVER, I hesitantly tap Carla on the shoulder and mumble something along the lines of “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’m a huge fan.  Would it be possible to take a picture with you?!” ::Insert inner giddy scream::  She seems genuinely flattered and jumps up out of her chair for the photo op.  Thanks Carla, for being so awesome and not a meanie, even after having to “pack your knives and go” :)

End foodie geek out moment.

The IFC is growing!  Here we are with our smiling faces.  We had a few additions to this month’s culinary voyage.  Matt’s mamma joined us since she was in town, and another Matt tagged along as well…which brought our total party to 8.  Multiply that by a few plates per person, and we’ve got a smörgåsbord of photos to follow.

The Antipasti:


Shrimp Salad (DECEIVING little sucker.  Where are my greens?), Fried Calamari


Beef Carpaccio, Tri-Colore Salad


Minestrone, Mixed Greens with Gorgonzola

The Primi and Secondi:


Potato Gnocchi, Lasagna Verde


Pumpkin Tortelli, Tagliatalle with Lamb, Veal Saltimbocca

And finally, the Dolci:


Apple Tart with Vanilla Gelato, Tart with Pistachio


Pecorino Wrapped in Walnut Leaves with Figs and Honey, Crostata di Cioccolato

Attempting to comment on every single dish would mean a much, much longer blog post.  And I’ve got to get back to last night’s DVR’d episode of America’s Next Great Restaurant.  So I leave you with a few highs and lows.

The highlights:

  • Meeting Carla
  • Lasagna Verde (this will always be a winner in my mind)
  • Affettati Misti (not pictured, but I’d had it before) Christina used her best “TV Food Critic Oxymoron” and described it as “Fresh, but well aged.” :)
  • Potato gnocchi
  • Veal Saltimbocca

Things to avoid:

  • Shrimp Salad (good but…where’s the salad?)
  • Pumpkin Tortelli (a bit too rich and creamy, but ironically, lacking in flavor)
  • Minestrone (I believe Adam described it as “hot water and vegetables”)

After trying some of the pumpkin tortelli, I’m finding this place is a bit hit or miss.  Thankfully, the hits are superb, and those alone will keep me coming back (I’m talking to you, lasagna verde, affettati misti and torta della nonna).

Irish Car Bomb (Minus the Whiskey) Cupcakes

March 16, 2011

I’ve moved! Visit http://www.dishful-thinking.com

 

Happy St. Patty’s day to all you beer, Bailey’s and sugar lovers!  These cupcakes are indulgent and the perfect treat to bring out your inner Irish.

After googling “guinness cupcakes” and only finding recipes with plain (read: non alcohol-infused) frosting, I finally came across this four leaf clover in a sea of shamrocks.

These cupcakes elicit images of the quintessential rolling green hills of the Irish countryside…or… you know, a raucous pub.

As with the ricotta cheesecake cupcakes, I went the mini cupcake route in an effort to have plenty to go around.  I ended up with 48 minis and enough batter for 3 standard sized cupcakes (I ran out of mini cupcake liners!).  The minis bake for a slightly shorter period of time than what the original recipe calls for.  I found that 15 minutes at 350° was good (although I bet I could’ve gotten away with 12 or 13.  The cupcakes came out just the slightest bit dry).

But that didn’t stop me from “sampling” a few before I boxed them up to share!

I’ll be spending the 17th celebrating my Irish name (and possibly washing these cupcakes down with an actual Irish car bomb?)  Here’s to wishing you a very happy St. Patrick’s day.  I leave you with this classic Irish toast:

Here’s to cheating, stealing, fighting, and drinking.
If you cheat, may you cheat death.
If you steal, may you steal a woman’s heart.
If you fight, may you fight for a brother.
And if you drink, may you drink with me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

INGREDIENTS
Cupcakes
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Guinness stout
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 pinch table salt
3 tablespoons irish cream (Bailey’s or Carolan’s)
1 tablespoon milk (I ended up using about 1 teaspoon more to get a creamer consistency)
green sprinkles (I opted to not add these)

DIRECTIONS
1 Preheat oven to 350°F Grease 24-30 cupcake cups, or fill with paper liners.
2 In a saucepan, heat the butter, Guinness, cocoa and brown sugar, whisking often, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
3 Into the work bowl of a stand mixer (or into a large mixing bowl), sift together salt, flour, white sugar and baking soda. Add the cooled Guinness mixture and beat on medium for 1 minute. Add eggs and sour cream and beat on medium for 2 minutes or until smooth.
4 Divide the batter evenly amongst the cupcake cups. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.
5 Meanwhile, in (cleaned) work bowl of stand mixer, cream butter until very light and fluffy. Add salt, and slowly add confectioners sugar. Do not run the mixer above low, or the sugar will spray all over your kitchen. Add a couple of spoonsful at a time until it has all been absorbed into the butter. Add Bailey’s and milk until spreadable consistency is achieved.
6 Frost cupcakes with Bailey’s frosting. Sprinkle with green jimmies.

An Impromptu Version of a “Garbage Salad”

March 10, 2011

I’ve moved! Visit http://www.dishful-thinking.com

 

Let’s face it. Life is busy, and some Thursday nights you’re going to get home at 9 with nothing to cook. Before you dig through your drawer of takeout menus (the typical 45 minute wait was literally the only thing that stopped me today), take a look in your fridge. There’s a chance you might have enough random vegetables and fruits to put together a halfway decent dinner. Enter the art of the Garbage Salad (or as I like to put it, dump anything you can find into a bowl and mix).  However, my version is a totally different than an actual garbage salad and is my own interpretation.  (Hey, when you’re scraping your fridge for food, options are limited).

I was starving and was a little bummed to not find leftovers in my fridge.  I started grabbing whatever stuff I had in my produce drawer and started chopping.  10 minutes later, I had a colorful, filling and nutritious salad.  Luckily, I had some pretty good veggies and fruits on hand.  I chopped up a red bell pepper, romaine lettuce, a handful of strawberries (thank you CA for having the best strawberries!), some cooked chicken I had made a few days earlier for a bbq chicken pizza and of course, cheese (…2 kinds in fact.  Shredded mozzarella and goat cheese).

I simply tossed everything in a large bowl with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkled on some pepper and salt.  Super easy and light enough to be eating late at night while catching up on some DVR’d shows.  I’ll just have to remember to open my fridge and not my takeout menu drawer when I need a fast late night dinner :)

Mini Ricotta Cheesecake Cupcakes

March 9, 2011

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First experiment from my cupcake-a-day calendar: Ricotta Cheesecake Cupcakes.  Oh.  Yes.

Having just bought new mini-cupcake pans, I decided to make minis instead of your standard sized cupcakes (also helped stretch the recipe further when I brought these in for my sugar-loving office of 45 people :))  The recipe says it yields a dozen standard sized cupcakes.  I ended up with 48 minis.

The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of walnut halves to be included into the mix and added atop the cupcake.  I wasn’t thrilled with that idea, so I decided to whip up some fresh strawberry syrup.  It’s super simple and added a punch of sugar to a surprisingly sugar-light cupcake.

All I did was heat a saucepan on the stove on medium, toss in a handful of chopped strawberries and of course, SUGAR!  While the sugar melted in the saucepan, I started smushing the strawberries.  Ta da!  Simple strawberry syrup.

The cupcakes themselves are surprisingly light and won’t put you into a sugar coma.  It’s the tamer version of its heavier, creamier cousin. cough Cheesecake Factory 1,000 calorie slice cough.

The recipe:

Ricotta cheese is lower in fat than cream cheese and it has a great texture.

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp. margarine, melted (I used butter.  If I’m making the effort to bake something from scratch, it had better be from real ingredients!)
2 tbsp. honey
2 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. orange extract
1/2 cup (3 1/2) walnut halves (I omitted this one)

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).  Place 12 baking cups in a muffin pan (or 4 mini muffin pans).

In a food processor, combine the cracker crumbs, margarine (or butter!) and honey.  Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each cup, pressing firmly into the bottom.  Chill until set.

In a large bowl, beat the ricotta with an electric mixer until soft (aka another great excuse to bust out my empire red Kitchenaid mixer!).  Then beat in the eggs, confectioners’ sugar and orange extract.  Fold in the walnuts (…or not).  Spoon the mixture into the cups.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.  Then remove the cupcakes and cool on a rack.  Chill until ready to serve.

Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days (or keep a stash in your freezer for a few months :))

Angelini Osteria

February 28, 2011

I’ve moved! Visit http://www.dishful-thinking.com

 

A good Italian meal consists of four parts: an antipasto, primo piatto, secondo piatto and my favorite, a dolce.  Make that five parts–the meal means nothing without some good company and conversation.

To say I’ve been underwhelmed with Italian food in the states is a gross understatement.  I haven’t had the mind-blowing, mouth-watering, food-baby inducing, just simply damn good food found in Italy since I said arrivederci to my semester in Florence.  So when I found out that fellow foodies with extremely high (read: virtually unfulfillable) expectations for Italian food actually found a restaurant here in LA they rather enjoyed, I KNEW I had to go there.  Enter Angelini Osteria, on Beverly a bit west of La Brea.

My cousin Chrissy-who also shares an affinity for tasty eats around our city-joined me on a Thursday night for a cousin catch up date at this petite gem of a restaurant.  I made the rez nearly a week in advance, and couldn’t even get an 8:30 time slot.  I settled for 8:45, and we weren’t seated until around 9.  The place is on the smaller side, reservations are tough (but are a breeze in comparison to Mozza) and from the looks of it, is probably always packed to the brim.  Whoever said “the best things in life are worth waiting for” must’ve just eaten at Angelini, because that extra 15 minute wait was beyond worth it.  You know you’ve got a good restaurant on your hands when you repeatedly say “this is so good I want to cry.”  I can’t even count the times I was nearing tears of joy because of the culinary amazingness on our table.

ANTIPASTO

First up was the antipasto–an Affettati Misti.  The plate boasted a variety of cured meats (Mortadella, Prosciutto di Parma, Bresaola and Salame) with a very generous dollop of burrata.  The prosciutto melted like butter.  Possibly the best prosciutto I’ve had outside my favorite boot-shaped country.  Same goes with the burrata.  W-O-W.  Hands down best burrata.  Indescribably creamy and ever so slightly sweet.  This dreamy cheese + any of the four meats on the plate = hello deliciousness!  I loved the tiny hint at a sweet/savory combo.

PRIMO/SECONDO

We ordered a primo and secondo and split those for our main course.  On the left is the Lasagna Verde, highly recommended from the hundreds of yelp reviews.  Surprisingly light for a lasagna, the dish was a welcome change to its “heavy on the meat” counterpart.  Loved the crispy spinach scattered around the plate.  They were sort of like spinach chips, if you will.  The plate on the right isn’t found on their regular menu (ironically, there were probably twice as many specials as there were regular menu items).  The Farm Raised Liberty Breast of Duck with spinach and aged balsamic vinegar was just OK.  In comparison to everything else we had already tasted, it was pretty boring.  And bland.

DOLCI

Chrissy and I can be stuffed to the brim with delicious food, but there is always room for dessert.  We like to call it our spare dessert stomachs.  Did I mention we share pretty awesome genes?  Posed with a dilemma of choosing one tasty sounding dessert from the menu, we decided to order…three :)  From left to right we have: Pecorino in Walnut Leaves with Dried Figs and Honey, Torta della Nonna topped with pine nuts and Crostata di Cioccolato, an open faced chocolate torte with coffee cream and hazelnut gelato.

Minus the fact that the Pecorino in Walnut Leaves was lacking the walnut leaves, it was simple and amazing.  Pecorino is typically a nuttier cheese, so it complemented the sweet gooey honey and figs.

The Torta della Nonna was so good I nearly shed tears of happiness.  I’m a chatty person, but this little cake was so good, I was left with my jaw on the floor and utterly speechless.  Literally translated as “grandma’s cake,” this dessert evokes warm and fuzzy feelings and is sort of like a fluffy, lighter version of cheesecake (although even that description doesn’t do it justice…there really isn’t anything else out there like it).  It’s obviously a dessert, but it’s not in-your-face sweet.  It’s served warm with a scoop of vanilla gelato and topped with pine nuts.  Basically heaven on a plate.

Finally, there’s the Crostata di Cioccolato.  A crunchy cookie-like chocolate torte served as the “bowl” to a generous scoop of hazelnut gelato.  This is the epitome of a rich dessert and after having consumed 2 other desserts (tee hee), the crostata was just a little too rich for me.  Which is quite unfortunate, because it was delish.

A $100+ bill just for the two of us means my twenty-something assistant budget needs to recover a bit before heading back (but mark my words, I’ll be a frequent patron here).  The fantastic news is I already have my next trip planned.  The unofficial International Food Club will be “traveling” to Italy next month :)

Oh Angelini Osteria, ti amo

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