Wednesday, April 17, 2013

OLD VINE CAFÉ – Breakfast and Brunch is Served






An ecliptic take on your normal brunch café this place serves it up with spice and a twist of a winery as if you were in wine country.  Located at the Camp in Costa Mesa, California this place may have a 30 minute wait on the weekends but it is well worth it.

Breakfast served from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.  I recommend you come after 1:30 pm on the weekend for a shorter wait time.  The menu can get pricy but it worth the price to treat your self once and while.

Monday, April 15, 2013

GREENLEAF GOURMET CHOPSHOP - Were healthy comes to play.




Tasty – check, healthy – check, inexpensive – check, yes this place has it all.  From its specialty salads to its thin crust pizzas the taste is in your mouth.  Nothing is made with mayonnaise!  My favorite is the Turkey Melt served on pretzel bread with truffle oil.  The cheese melts perfectly and is warm and inviting on a cold spring day.  The local favorite is The Antioxidant Orchard Salad with baby missed greens, grapes, celery, apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, blue cheese, mint, red onion, cucumbers, strawberries and blueberries dressed with pomegranate whole grain mustard vinaigrette.  But look if your looking for more than just a salad try panni or BYO hot Entrée (it’s a choose your own protein and 2 sides). The protein is anything from grilled chicken breast, flat iron steak to tofu or seared ahi tuna. 
The thin crust pizzas are just that thin crust.  You can go basic with wild mushroom and truffle pizza to spicy turkey sausage and fennel.  Okay, nothing at this establishment is basic.  The spicy pizza has a delicious kick and is not served with tomato sauce but what appears to be a spicy buffalo sauce.   Don’t be chicken it is flavorful so give your mouth a spicy treat.




The credit machines were down when I went to everyone was scrambling for cold hard cash which does not exist anymore.  The cashier was awesome he provided free drinks and told us to wait 15 minutes as happy starts at 3 pm.  During Happy Hour all pizzas are half price along with the kicking gourmet sides.  There are 14 sides to choose from so there has to be something you like. I recommend quinoa salad or Tuscan kale salad but there are also baked sweet potato fries, hummus or any number of delicious pasta salads. This place is customer friendly with a capital FRIENDLY.

This is not fancy sit down establishment.  It is simple order at the front and they bring your food to you.  But they are always there to assist you with a smile.  There is wine bar to belly up to and an outside dog friendly patio area. 

The prices for health are inexpensive.  Greenplate Special ½ panni and your choice of side salad or fresh made soup is $7.95.  You will not leave hungry.  The desserts are just as tasty and you will not be wasting calories because they are totally worth it!

This place is 4 Forks Up for food, price, atmosphere, friendliness.  I cannot say enough good things.  Best time of day is after 3pm because of half price options.  Great to shop then drop off for a bite.  Or even after a swim at the beach which is just a stone’s throw away.  This particular location is open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  The Century City and Beverly Hills locations are only open for Breakfast and Lunch. 

  234 East 17th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627









Friday, April 12, 2013

SEASONS 52 – Healthy Food at Last




Fresh vegetables, garlic, seafood, poultry and steak this place has it all and each dish is less than 475 calories.  Unbelievable you say nope they can do it.  Nothing is cooked with butter but that does not skip on the taste.  The spices and seasons are all fresh and enhance the flavor of the meat and vegetables they do not disguise the flavor. 
 




This place is billed as a fresh grill and wine bar.  There is a piano bar with live music to listen to in the bar area.  What makes this place unique is that the menu changes with the seasons.  The chef’s specials are changed 52 times a year. 

The flatbreads are a delight.  There is always one featured by the chef.  On this particular night the special was Portobello Mushroom, garlic, basil and mozzarella.  It was light and hit the spot so there was plenty of room to move with entrée and a fabulous dessert.  The garlic had just the right amount of kick.  However if flatbreads are not your thing you can indulge in a Chicken Chile Relleno, Goat Cheese Ravioli, or Ahi Tuna Tartar you cannot go wrong with the wide selection of appetizers.

I really wanted to try the Vegetarian Tasting featuring quinoa-citrus salad, soft taco, chili relleno, vegetables, cedar roasted tofu and mango chutney but since I always go with veggies I changed it up and had the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp Penne Pasta with spring asparagus, oyster mushrooms and lemon-basil sauce.  It was seasoned to perfection the shrimp was tender and large and I must credit the chef with giving more than just few shrimp.  It was light on the penne pasta.  The Caramelized Grilled Sea Scallops with roasted asparagus, sun-dried tomato-mushroom pearl pasta.  The pearl pasta was a little over cooked but the freshness of the scallops was spot one. 

Desserts were advertised as each being less than 350 calories.  I had to be reassured by the waiter that this was a true statement.  Although they were small they were the perfect portion to end the dinner.  The Chocolate Peanut Butter Mouse was rich and decadent. There is a little cake hidden at the bottom of the dish.  At first you would think that it was not enough to satisfy that sweet tooth but by the 3rd bite you just could not eat more than what was presented.  The Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli was exceptional.  Yes you can have a bad cannoli and unfortunately I have.  But the mascarpone cheese was spot on.

The price was a little high but as we all know you get what you pay for and healthy food done right comes at an expense.  This a perfect place for date night.  The service was friendly which around South Coast Plaza is hard to come by.  This place rates 3.5 Forks Up.  Like I said it is a little pricey, but the atmosphere, food and staff make it worthy.

3333 Bristol St. Ste. 2802, Costa Mesa, California 92626 – Located at South Coast Plaza



























Thursday, April 11, 2013

WASHINGTON DC



I cannot wait until next month when I will be sampling the tasting of the fabulous city.   All I have heard was the taste of DC is something to be admired and savoured.  The City never sleeps or is that New York?  It does not really matter because I will never sleep with a full belly every night.  From the highend eateries to the typical whole in the walls which most people will not explore.  I will be your eyes, ears and taste buds.

Any suggestions? Any recommendations?

From the seafood to the Kosher Deli I cannot wait to bite my teeth into DC. Do you think the President will allow me into the White House?  I have asked but he has not answered.  Could you imagine eating a meal cooked from his prized chef?   My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Desserts - I will be dreaming of in my sleep. That Chocolate Cake drizeled with hot fudge.  The fresh made creamery ice cream.  I fully realize that I will be gaining 10 - 15 pounds during this trip so I have been preparing by dieting already.  Okay, so perhaps dieting is not what I do best but I attempting to exercise at least 5 times a week.  I have to compensate for the weight gain.

So DC Watch out Tammy is coming at you in a few weeks and I cannot wait to see the sights and sounds add a little crab cakes and Red Wine and we are set to Party!  Don't worry Jamey and Paul I will be thinking of you both as I sip my wine out on the patio of Cafe.  So here I am raising my glass and toasting everyone.

Looking forward to recommending more food and fun from DC!





Tuesday, April 9, 2013

SOL COCINA – A little fun and sun of Baja in Newport Beach.





 Mexican food with a modern twist from its Lobster Tacos to its Chili Relleno, this place is a go to establishment.  Located on Balboa Marina in New Port Beach the views are of the beautiful boats marooned on the pier.  The calming water scenery only adds to the style and flare from the traditional oversize wood chairs and tables to the high beam ceilings.  The atmosphere rates an A+.   It is a mix of Southern California and Baja. 
                            
Each dish is served with a healthy twist.  The guacamole is available several ways from traditional called Naked Guacamole to Guacamole Sol made with guacamole, mango, tequila, goat cheese, pepitas and cilantro.  For a fruity flare Guacamole Verano is made with raspberries, chile con limon, serranos, almonds and cotixa.  Each guacamole dish does not disappoint it just depends on what you are in the mood for that night.   The chips are taco shells halved and sprinkled with paprika and salt.

The menu has something for every taste bud from chicken to short ribs.  The Shrimp Chile Relleno is untraditional as it is lightly battered and baked not fried stuffed with arroz verde, shrimp and cheese served with salsa diabla.  The poblano chiles have a bite so be sure you have some thing to drink.  The Mojitos are spot on and compliments the dish perfectly.  This dish was light and not heavy so there is plenty of room for dessert.

As I was missing my lobster from Puerto Nuevo since I am deferring travel there for an undetermined amount of time, I had to order the Puerto Nuevo Tacos Al Mojo De Ajo.  The Baja spiny lobster meat was sautéed with butter and garlic and delightful.  You have a choice of accompaniments so I went with the spicy coleslaw and quinoa salad. Rice and beans are so uninspiring.  One word describes this dish best “delicious”!  Light, not heavy, tender lobster with just enough garlic and butter that it was not soggy it was my top pick. 

This establishment does have Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas Verde and they were triangle style with plenty of spices, sauce and a drizzle of sour cream.  A favorite of the restaurant is the Short Ribs Barbacoa en Cazuela braised with guajillos, avocado leaf, nopales and tomatoes.  The short ribs just fall of the bone and have a Baja flavor. 

The desserts were the only disappointment.  I recommend Sol Cocina for dinner than indulging in coffee and dessert at the Koffee Klatch located at 1440 S Coast Hwy Laguna Beach, CA 92651, but more about Koffee Klatch later.

Sol Cocina rates 3.5 Forks Up for service, experience and food.  The desserts were lacking so I had to spend the gas money to find me something sweet.

SOL COCINA - 251 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92660









Monday, April 8, 2013

THE COURT OF TWO SISTERS – JAZZ BRUNCH SOUTHERN STYLE



Where Jazz comes to play, if you are looking for a jazz brunch, look no further than The Court of Two Sisters.  Located in the French Quarter on Royal Street known as “Governor’s Row” this block was once the home to five governors, two state Supreme Court Juices and the future President of the United States.    The royal governor of colonial Louisiana once lived at this address.

Sisters Emma and Bertha resided here.  There were sisters of a proud aristocratic family.  The sisters died within 2 months of each other and are buried side by side at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3.  Now the Court of Two Sisters is owned by two brothers not related to Emma and Bertha but sworn to keeping the tradition of the two sisters alive today.

The Court of Two Sisters is the only historic restaurant in New Orleans which features a strolling jazz trio.  The assemble plays 7 days a week and during brunch.

We were lucky enough to attend the jazz brunch without reservations.  The jazz music was off the hook.  It was traditional Southern Jazz so do not expect any rock music influence.

Brunch consisted of a fabulous buffet which included, Peel and Eat Shrimp, Crawfish, Salads, Omelets, Eggs Benedict, Tender Roast Beef, Fresh Shrimp in Spicy Etouffee, Duck à l' orange, Crawfish Louise, Creole Jambalaya, and Southern BBQ Pork Ribs just to name a few of the samplings.  Dessert included Mardi Gras King Cake, Southern Pecan Pie, Bananas Foster, Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce and various cakes and pies.   The Pecan Pie left me wanting more and the Bananas Forster I kept going back for seconds until my pants could not fit anymore.

 






For those who have never experienced Turtle Soup with Sherry it really was good.  The Sherry added the kick that the soup needed to stand above the rest.  I do not think that I could have enjoyed it without that dollop of Sherry.  The Shrimp Etouffee was spicy so it is not for westerners.  The Creamy Crawfish and Spinach Pasta was nothing like I had ever tasted and I am not sure I could do it justice describing it.  Yes, you just had to be there.  The Pork Ribs fell of the bone.  I do not believe that there was a single dish that disappointed me.  Even the price was reasonable.  I was expecting $50 per person but was happily surprised to find it under $30 per person.  If you pace yourself you will not be eating till dinner time therefore its 2 meals for the price of one.

The service was excellent.  I kept wondering why I could not get the same service out in California.  I will admit the service in New Orleans is people friendly and spot on.  I was never disappointed.  I think everyone needs to take lessons from the citizens of New Orleans they were friendly and generous much like the Canadians. 

All in all you must give this place a try when in New Orleans.  The food, service and price are reasonable.  3.5 Forks Up because it is your go too.  The Court of Two Sisters cook books can be bought at gift shops throughout the French Quarter.  I got mine!

The Court of Two Sisters - 613 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA.












Thursday, April 4, 2013

CAFÉ DU MONDE COFFEE STAND – 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans 70116




 















Food, music, culture, fun what else can I say about New Orleans which has not been said?  Let me see…I oh, yes, I forgot the Beignets!!!!  A beignet is a square piece of dough fried to perfection then covered with powdered sugar.  The original beignets were sometimes filled with fruit and you can still find them milling about.  The beignets served at Café Du Monde Coffee Stand are warm and fresh.  They are fried to order never stall.  The batter is light like a lot of the batter I have found in establishments in the French Quarter.  Warning do NOT where black because the powder sugar is not dusted on it is heavy placed on and can get all over you.  But do not be afraid because you can shake the powder off.

Café Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the French Market in New Orleans.  This specific location is open 24 hours a day but closed for Christmas.  It only serves white and chocolate milk (hot or cold), coffee, chicory, fresh squeezed orange juice, sodas and beignets so do not think of coming here unless you want to try what all of New Orleans is talking about – the best beignets and bang for your buck.   The beignets come in an order of three and are only $2.44.  This place only accepts cash.  But for less than what you pay at Starbucks you can treat yourself to a cup of coffee or chicory and beignets. 

This establishment is actually jam packed with patron 24 hours a day.  But do not worry because they have a large comfortable outdoor patio along with indoor seating.  If you are coming to New Orleans to absorb the culture then I definitely recommend that you take a seat outside on the patio and people watch.  Just a stone throw from the patio area is an open area where you can observe the fabulous street performs.  There is music and dancing so you can get down with your bad self.

Café Du Monde Coffee Stand is a great place to stop and rest your tired feet.  It is perfect for a late night beignet or morning cup of coffee.  The service is fast and friendly they have it down to science.  So if you are looking for a nice sugary snack or just want a rest your feet then I recommend stopping her for a treat.  This establishment rates 3.5 Forks Up.




Tuesday, April 2, 2013

SING THE BODY ELECTRIC - THE OLD COFFEE POT RESTAURANT

video


The fabulous singer from The Old Coffee Pot Restaurant - she is true delight. Feel the gospel in your soul and you know you are in New Orleans.

THE OLD COFFEE POT RESTUATANT – 714 Saint Peter Street New Orleans, LA 70116



“Southern food done right,” sums up my experience at The Old Coffee Pot Restaurant in the French Quarter.  It is just a stone’s throw away from Bourbon Street where the party never dies. 

From my understanding Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives filmed an episode from this quant whole in the wall restaurant.  The food was spot on and the menu was New Orleans flare. 

The grits were hands down the best grits I ever had creamy and buttery, off my diet with this one.  There is also a traditional item on the menu called Callas Cakes. The recipe dates back to the mid 1800’s.  A Callas Cake is a blend of long grain rice and sweet spices formed into a ball and deep fried.  It is then dusted with powdered sugar.  I recommend ordering this item with the option of pecans.  It is served with grits and maple syrup so you get two for the price of one.  At first glance it reminds me of Italian Donuts but the texture is completely different.  Where Italian Donuts let off Callas Cakes begin with the spices like something of an Indian spice.  It’s a sweet flavor of cinnamon and sugar.



If your looking for more of an egg dish than I recommend Eggs Sardou.  It is two perfectly poached eggs placed on top of creamed spinach and artichoke bottoms on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce.  The hollandaise is light not heavy.  I saw this little item on several menus throughout town so it must be a traditional southern dish.  I was surprised to see creamed spinach instead of sautéed spinach but it worked.  It certainly is not for those on a low cholesterol diet.  I must say it was well worth calories.


 For the more ambitious there is a Rockefeller – again fresh creamed spinach, the ever popular Louisiana oysters, cheese and blend of Creole seasons with of course grits.  Or you can order Lost Bread their version of French toast.  A po-boy bread dipped in special batter, grilled and deep fried than topped with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup. 

Everything in New Orleans is deep fried so do not be afraid they know how to do it right in the south.  I suggest you lose a few pounds before visiting as you will surely pack the weight right back on after your visit.  They must put something in the oil when the fry here because the batter is light and kicked up a notch with flavor unlike what you may be use to.  I was never disappointed with any fried dish while in New Orleans and you will not be too. 

What made my journey to the Old Coffee Pot Restaurant so memorable was not just the food but the hospitality.  For those of you who have not checked out my Face Book posting the waitress was a gospel singer.  She entertained us all by belting out a song.  Come to find out later she has been in some movies filmed down here singing.  She really needs a good agent because she maybe a good waitress but she was a great singer and a very special person.

This place deserves all the publicity it can get. It is truly a DIAMOND in the rough. The food, atmosphere and hospitality are well worth the Four Forks Up.  Please come and hear the bluebird sing you will enjoy every minute of your experience.




Monday, April 1, 2013

ACME OYSTER HOUSE – NEW ORLEANS AT ITS BEST




Fresh Oysters, poor boy sandwiches and a great atmosphere rounds out the experience you will have at ACME Oyster House.  It is New Orleans Institution, the doors opened in 1910.  In 1924, a fire caused the collapse of the three-story Acme Saloon building located in the French Quarter.  It was then moved around the corner at 724 Iberville, where it still operates today.
                           
The hand shucked Louisiana Oysters are the finest that New Orleans has to offer.   I recommended the charbroiled oysters they were fabulous with garlic and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  If you want a kick add a dollop of Tabasco sauce.  Tabasco sauce was developed in Louisiana so you know it has got to be good.  The oysters were huge and meaty.  The chefs shuck and clean the oysters to perfection.

This establishment also serves the traditional classics like red beans and rice, seafood gumbo and jambalaya.  I recommend the Fried Peace Maker Po-Boy.  It was voted #4 Top Ten Sandwiches – I do not know by who but it was good!  It is a mix of fried oysters and shrimp on fresh baked French bread with Tabasco infused mayo.  The batter is seasoned to perfection, light and crisp.  Unlike other fried batters it was not doughy and did not fall apart when you bit into it.  This batter is used on all the fried dishes so you can not go wrong ordering something else fried.   The fish and chips can feed 2 hungry people so if want to share a plate I recommend it.  The Fried Peace Maker Po-Boy is priced to sell at $12.99 and well worth every bite.  

I have to give a nod to the Pecan Cobbler with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.  It was one of the best desserts I had in New Orleans.  Emeril’s was good that I will not deny but the fresh pecans were spectacular.  Topped off with vanilla bean ice cream and you had to roll me out the door.

ACME Oyster House has more than one location but I do recommend you give the one in the French Quarter a try.  At night time this place is packed so reservations are recommended.  Even at lunch if there is party more than 2 your wait could be up to 30 minutes.  You just cannot visit New Orleans without experiencing the ACME Oyster House.  The service was spot one.  My waitress was helpful and always right there for a refill so feel free to pour on the Tabasco sauce.  This place rates 4 Four Forks Up for service, price and experience. It may not be a 5 star restaurant but it does not pretend to be one. 

ACME Oyster House - 724 Iberville Street New Orleans, New Orleans, LA.