Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I’ve eaten at the Jinky’s in Sherman Oaks a couple of times.  The first time was a suggestion from a friend, and after that my husband and I were sold.  I love that you can order breakfast anytime.  I love that their menu is huge.  The only thing I don’t like is the size of the parking lot, but that’s L.A. for you.

This past Sunday, my husband and I met a couple friends for lunch at Jinky’s.  We arrived around 12:30, and there was a half-hour wait.  The parking lot was full, so we found street parking not too far away in the residential neighborhood.  Talking and catching up with friends passed the time quickly. 
There is indoor and outdoor seating.  It was a slightly warm day (upper 70s), but the outdoor seating was in the shade.  We were seated inside, and the air conditioning was a little high but not so cold that I needed the sweater I brought with me just in case.

Our waiter came over to our table probably about 3 times before we were ready to order.  The only problem with the menu is that there are so many options, and they all sound delicious.  Glancing around at the plates  being served to other diners doesn’t help.  Perhaps it even complicates the matter.  Do I want eggs or pancakes?  Do I want eggs and pancakes?  Wait; do I want a burger instead?  I was torn between the VooDoo Omelet and the Pumpkin and Baked Apple Crepes.  I’ve had both before, and both are delicious.  In the end, I chose the Pumpkin and Baked Apple Crepes because I’m pretty good at making omelets at home, but (at least as of yet) I can’t make crepes.

The Pumpkin and Baked Apple Crepes were as good as I remembered.  They’re described on the menu as  “Topped with pumpkin marmalade, baked cinnamon apples, whipped cream, and almonds; dusted with powdered sugar.”  Considering pumpkin pie and apple pie are my two favorite types of pie, this is definitely my favorite type of crepe.  The pumpkin marmalade thickly covers the crepes below.  The baked apples are perfectly tender and delicious.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.  Just now, when I looked at the photo I took of my meal, I realized that they didn't put whipped cream on my crepes.  Obviously, I didn't miss it.

My husband was the only one among us who decided to order lunch.  He barely even glanced at the multiple pages of breakfast offerings.  He went straight to the burgers.  I can’t blame a guy for knowing what he wants.  He ordered the Peppercorn Gorgonzola Burger.  All sandwiches come with fries or a salad.  Trying to be somewhat healthy (choice of burger aside), he went with the salad.  The burger was a pretty good size.  It was topped with grilled onion, arugula and gorgonzola cheese.  I tasted a bite of it, and it was a good, juicy burger.  The bun was nicely toasted too.  

Our friends (a married couple) couldn’t decide between omelettes and pancakes, so they decided to share.  One ordered Whole Wheat Pancakes, and the other ordered the Rosemary Omelette.  That way they could each taste both.  I couldn’t convince my husband to order the VooDoo Omelette so that I could have the best of both worlds, but once I tasted my crepes, I really had no regrets.  Honestly, I’d probably order the same thing next time.

The Whole Wheat Pancakes came in a stack of 3.  They were large and super fluffy.  Our friend drowned them in maple syrup.  The waiter asked if she wanted sugar free syrup, but she chose to soak them in the full sugar version.  I tasted a bite, and they were fluffy and delicious.  They had a nice whole wheat flavor.  I don’t think I’d be able to handle a whole plate of those pancakes though.  It’d be too much of the same.  

The Rosemary Omelette is described on the menu as “chicken, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, and Boursin cheese.”  All omelettes come with your choice of potatoes, cottage cheese tomatoes or tater tots plus your choice of toast, tortillas, bagel or English muffin.  Our friend chose the potatoes and a plain bagel, which came toasted.  I didn’t taste this meal, but it looked delicious, and our friend wiped the plate clean.  I don’t think there was even so much as a piece of potato left behind.  Well, he did only manage to finish half of the bagel, but I still consider that a good effort.  It certainly looked delicious, and I heard no complaints.

In short, I look forward to my next visit to Jinky’s.  I really need to go there more often so that I can try more items on their menu.  The prices are reasonable, especially considering the large servings.  The waiters are friendly, and even though the restaurant was crowded, we never felt rushed.  If you’re looking for a great place to have a meal with friends, or if you want to eat breakfast in the afternoon, you have to check out Jinky’s.  There are multiple locations around L.A., so there’s bound to be one near you.

Happy eating!

Tri-Tip Sandwiches

Do you have leftover tri-tip?  Then, you'll love this recipe!

Tri-Tip Sandwiches
(Makes 2)

8 oz tri-tip, sliced (6-8 slices)
2 oz swiss cheese, sliced (or your favorite cheese)
4 slices rye bread
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 c mushrooms, chopped
spray butter
cooking spray

Spray a frying pan with cooking spray, and turn heat to medium-high.  Add the onions and cook until opaque.  Add the mushrooms and cook until all the water is removed and the onions are caramelized.

Spray butter on the rye bread.  Heat a griddle over medium heat and spray with cooking spray.  Add the bread, and cook until one side of each slice of bread is golden-brown.

Sprinkle TexJoy on the tri-tip, and build each sandwich as follows.  Start with one slice of bread (grilled side up).  Add half an ounce of cheese, and top that with half of the mushrooms and onions.  Add 4 ounces of tri-tip and another half ounce of cheese.  Top with another slice of bread, grilled side down.

Spray the griddle with cooking spray and place each sandwich on top.  Cook until the bottom side of the bread is golden-brown.  Carefully flip the sandwiches over with a spatula and cook until the cheese is melted and the bottom side of the bread is golden brown.

Plate.  Cut in half.  Enjoy!  These sandwiches go well with my Everyday Salad and Baked Sweet Potato Fries.

Happy eating!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pizza Quiche

I'm the queen of turning leftovers into brand new deliciousness.  Case in point, Pizza Quiche.  This recipe is really just a way to use leftovers from my Zucchini Stew recipe.  As delicious as Zucchini Stew is, for some reason my husband and I never get around to heating up the leftovers, so I came up with this recipe as a way to use up the stew while making it taste completely different (and oddly similar to pizza). 

I made this quiche to share with my mom last night while we watched the Olympics, and she said, "This is the best quiche I've ever had!  It tastes like eating a juicy, deep dish pizza without the guilt."  Yup, that's an exact quote.  She's currently on a low-carb diet, so this quiche was perfect for her since it doesn't include a crust or any flour.  It's also very low cal, about 800 calories in the entire quiche! 

While I say this recipe serves 4, my husband and I have easily polished it off ourselves before.  It just depends how hungry you are and what you're serving with it.  To make this quiche into a meal, I suggest pairing it with a salad (my Everday Salad or my mom's Spinach Salad are both good options), and if you want to add carbs, some sliced French or Italian bread would be perfect.

Pizza Quiche
Serves 4 (8 pieces, 2 pieces per person)

2.5 c leftover zucchini stew (click here to get the recipe)
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
3 eggs
2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.  Mix all ingredients except parmesan in a large bowl. 

Spray a pie pan with non-stick cooking spray, and pour the egg mixture into the pie pan.  Sprinkle evenly with parmesan cheese.

Bake about 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


*Guest post by my husband.  The tri-tip he made last night was so delicious!
I tried being vegan for a week and a half, and it wasn't too terrible.  I missed meat in the beginning, but I really just got used to fruit and vegetables.  After a super bowl party with an amazing spread of cheese dip with ground beef, chili, and buffalo chicken hors d'oeuvres, I was back to eating meat.  In my freezer was a tri-tip roast, which I defrosted when I got home.  Tonight I finally cooked it, and here's how.


1-3 pound tri-tip roast
Seasoning (Tex-Joy, 3 tbsp, or to taste)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Prepare a roasting pan or broiler pan by lining the bottom with foil.  You don't have to, but it helps with cleanup. 

3. Rub the roast with seasoning.

4. Cook the roast on the rack of the roasting pan for 30 - 50 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 135 (rare) - 150 (medium).

5. Remove the roast from the oven and wrap in foil and let stand for about 15 minutes. 

The roast should continue to cook, raising the internal temperature, and allowing the juice to be reabsorbed, which means the juice won't run all over the cutting board.

Tip:  Because we tend to like meat a little more well done, I let the internal temperature of our tri-tip reach 160, and then I wrapped it in foil.  I let it stand for 15-20 minutes. 

Happy eating!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Duke's Malibu

It was a spontaneous idea to eat a late lunch at Duke's in Malibu today.  It was just such a beautiful day with perfect weather, and we had no plans for Valentine's Day.  We called ahead to make sure they were having their normal lunch menu, which they were, and then we headed to the coast.  We would've made a reservation, but they were all full for reservations for the day.  However, the lady on the phone said that they reserved a third of their restaurant for walk-ins.  The winding drive down Topanga Canyon can be beautiful, but it is also full of twists and turns.  Keep that in mind if (like us) you're coming from the valley.

We probably could've found street parking if we really tried, but we decided to make it easy on ourselves and just go with valet.  This was the first time we've ever parked our own car at valet.  The valet directed us to park our car directly behind another car.  It's basically stacked parking, but the valets can move cars around when guests are ready to leave.

There were people waiting in the lobby when we arrived.  The hostess said the wait was about 20 minutes.  It was probably around 2:20pm, and lunch ends in the dining room at 3pm.  The hostess mentioned that there's open seating in the bars and on the patio if we wanted to check that out.  She put our name in, gave us a buzzer, and we walked down the hall towards the bar area.  The whole restaurant has windows facing the ocean, so as we walked, we had a great view.  

There are 2 bars.  The first one looks like it's kind of behind the restaurant area, elevated from the booths below.  At the second bar, the whole area is open seating.  There were open tables and seats at the bar when we arrived, but none of them were right next to the water, so we kept walking, hoping for a better view.  We walked out onto the patio, which is just past the second bar area, and all of the tables were taken.  However, there was a counter against the wall with 5 stools, all of which were empty, and it was right next to the water.  We decided to sit there and keep an eye out on the other tables to see if someone left.

We had never been to this Duke's before, although we've passed it many times coming and going when we have beach days at Point Dume.  We ate at the Duke's in Maui and loved it, so we've been wanting to compare the two.  First of all, the Duke's in Malibu has a better view than in Maui.  You're closed to the water, and you can hear the waves crash from your table.  I highly recommend sitting on the patio.  It was 75 and sunny on Valentine's Day.  It's not everywhere you can eat outside at the coast in February and not even need a jacket.

My husband went to the bar inside to ask about menus.  He was told that a waitress would come out and give us menus.  After waiting about 10 minutes, we still didn't have menus, so he went back to the bar and came back with menus this time.  I'm not saying anything bad about the waitress.  Service was kind of slow, but it looked like all of the waiters/waitresses had a lot of tables to handle, and we weren't in a rush.  My husband always seems to be in a rush, but I said to him, "Let's just enjoy being here.  We don't have anywhere else to go."  It was nice just watching seals play in the water and couples stroll hand-in-hand on the beach below.

We had 2 menus to look over, the Barefoot Bar menu and the regular restaurant lunch menu.  The bar menu has a lot of options for starters, entrees, drinks, and daily happy hour specials.  There are some items that aren't included on the regular menu.  I will always eat in the bar at Duke's so I can order off of this menu!

Shortly after my husband came back with menus, the people sitting at the table right next to us got up to leave.  We hopped up and claimed their table before they were even out of their chairs.  It was necessary because there was another couple ready to swoop in only seconds later.  The table was perfect, right next to the water with a great view.  We were in the shade, which was nice.  I burn without sunscreen.  There were also heaters hooked to the bottom of the thatched roof umbrellas, and they came on about an hour later just as it started to get chilly.  It was perfect!

We decided to get a couple of starters off of the Barefoot Bar menu.  My husband chose the Panko Crusted Calamari, which comes with guava cocktail sauce and meyer lemon remoulade.  It was a nice big serving for sharing, or it could be a small meal for one person.  I loved that the calamari were strips and not tentacles.  I hate tentacles.  They were really meaty, lightly breaded and delicious.  I would definitely order them again, and I’m not usually a huge calamari fan.  

I chose to get the Crispy Coconut Shrimp for a starter.  Coconut shrimp is one of my favorite appetizers ever, but they had me at “lilikoi dipping sauce.”  “Lilikoi” is the Hawaiian word for Passion Fruit, and it conjures up delicious memories from Maui.  The starter came with 5 huge butterflied shrimp which were lightly breaded and juicy.  The lilikoi dipping sauce wasn’t as good with the coconut shrimp as I expected.  I actually liked the shrimp better without the sauce.  These were so good that even my husband liked them, and he doesn't usually like coconut.  However, next time I’d probably try something else, perhaps the Crab & Macnut Wontons, the Fisherman’s Chowder, or the Grilled Chicken Quesadilla.

For his entree, my husband ordered the Kalua Pork Mac & Cheese, which is only offered on the Barefoot Bar menu and on the dinner menu (not the lunch menu).  It’s described on the menu as “Luau style slow cooked pork, creamy white cheddar sauce, ditalini pasta.”  If you follow my blog, you know how much I love white cheddar.  I never would’ve thought of putting these ingredients together, but it was a brilliant idea.  It came in a hot, oven-baked bowl and was a decent size serving for something so hearty.  I ate a few bites, and it was love.  It’s awfully rich, so I don’t know that I’d be able to eat an entire meal of it, but my husband didn’t have a problem finishing it off.  We are so going to try to replicate this at home.  We already buy white cheddar and make kalua pork.  Look for a recipe in the future!  Oh, and yes, this is definitely a MUST order item.  Until we perfect it ourselves, I would definitely order this.

I ordered a salad from the main lunch menu, the Arugula & Farro salad.  This is the exact same salad I ordered at the Duke’s in Maui, and it was the best meal I had during that entire visit.  I just had to order it again here for comparison sake.  It’s described on the menu as “Fire roasted vegetables, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta, basil lemon vinaigrette.”  There are options to add citrus herb marinated fresh fish or fire grilled chicken breast.  There were 3 types of fresh fish, and I chose the Mahi Mahi.  I also asked for the salad without cucumbers.  I usually ask to have dressing on the side, but I didn’t this time.  The salad looked delicious and reminded me a lot of the one in Maui.  The fish wasn’t nearly as good though, I mean, how could it be?  It’s not like we catch fresh fish in Malibu the way they do in Maui.  They also forgot to leave out the cucumbers, so I had to pick them out.  I have trouble digesting them, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t accidentally eat one.  Overall, the salad was really good.  It wasn’t as amazing as what I remembered in Maui though.  Also, I hadn’t started making my Everyday Salad back when I was in Maui, and I think I’d prefer that salad over this one.  So, will I order this salad again?  No.  Did I enjoy eating it?  Yes.  Next time I might try the Turkey, Bacon & Burrata Sandwich, the Fish & Chips, or the Baja Fish Tacos.

We looked over the dessert menu, but we were too full at that point to even share something.  I was really impressed that the menu was shaped like a surfboard though, and if (when!) we come back, I'd probably try the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.

We left around 4:20pm, 2 hours after arriving.  It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  There weren’t any tables available in the bar when we left.  The restaurant is closed daily from 3pm to 5pm, so I assume people who arrived early for their dinner reservation were starting with a drink in the bar.  It was really pretty painless considering it was Valentine’s Day and something we decided to do at the last minute.  Sometime I want to come back during sunset.  I’m sure there’s an amazing view from any table that time of day.

The valet was quick to get our car.  Valet parking only costs $3 before 4pm, and $4 after 4pm.  It’s worth it for convenience.  

Happy eating!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

Last week my husband was eating a vegan diet.  I was really proud of him for keeping it up, but he caved at a Super Bowl party.  I think he was really craving meat, because while he was there, his ears perked up when he heard someone mention a great BBQ restaurant they tried recently called Lucille’s.  He came home from the party determined that we eat there as soon as possible.

I like to look at restaurant websites before eating there the first time so that I can get a sense of the menu and the prices.  My husband sent me the link, and I drooled over the menu that evening agreeing with him that yes, we’d need to eat there sometime soon.

A couple days ago, we headed over to the Lucille’s in Valencia.  We’re in the valley, so it was the easiest one for us to get to and avoid rush hour traffic.  There’s another location in Culver City that would be more convenient if you live further south or on the west side.   

We had never been to Valencia before, so we let our GPS guide us.  Lucille’s is attached to a mall, and for some reason our GPS led us to the JC Penney entrance.  We went inside and asked an employee how to get to Lucille’s.  She basically explained how to walk to the other side of the mall, so we got back in our car and parked closer to where we had first entered the mall parking lot.  Lucille’s is located next to a couple other restaurants and to the right of Macy’s.  

We arrived a little after 3pm, and the restaurant was mainly empty.  Considering the time of day, that wasn’t a surprise.  The hostess almost insisted that we sit in the bar area.  We didn’t mind as long as we could have a booth instead of actually sitting at the bar.  The bar had a lot of flat screen TVs, which I usually don’t like since I hate the sports bar atmosphere, but sitting at our booth, I hardly even knew they were there.  I had a better view of a brick wall covered with paintings of blues musicians.  There was also blues music playing, and there were string lights hanging from the ceiling.  The restaurant had a New Orleans atmosphere which I liked.

Our waiter, Sean, was really friendly and informed us that we had arrived during Happy Hour, and that the lunch menu was also still available.  Turns out that arriving between 3pm and 4pm and sitting in the bar is the best deal going since the Happy Hour menu starts at 3pm (and is only available in the bar), and the lunch menu ends at 4pm.  You also have access to the main menu as well.  I love options!  Sean also explained that all of their meat is smoked on site for 2-24 hours.  Impressive!

We decided to start with the Happy Hour menu and order a couple appetizers.  I really wanted to try the Fried Green Tomatoes.  They’re described on the menu as “You don't need to make a whistle-stop to enjoy these thick-sliced green tomatoes coated in cornmeal and deep-fried until golden brown. Served with roasted red pepper cream.”  I’d eaten Fried Green Tomatoes once before but couldn’t remember what they tasted like.  My husband really wanted to try the Gumbo, so we ordered that as well.  It’s described on the menu as “A bowl of traditional New Orleans style gumbo made with a dark roux savory broth, shrimp, smoked chicken and andouille sausage. Served with steamed white rice.”  He also ordered a Sweet Tea, but I stuck with water.

We looked over the main menu and the lunch menu while we waited for our appetizers to arrive.  There are a lot of options!  They have everything from BBQ to catfish to a veggie burger.  In the end, my husband decided to go with the BBQ Lunch Platter off of the lunch menu where it’s described as “Your choice of baby back ribs (3 bones) or St. Louis spare ribs (3 bones) or beef rib (1 bone) and your choice of two of the following: pulled pork, beef brisket, tri tip, hot link, rib tips or one quarter smoked chicken.”  Sean recommended the St. Louis ribs, so he decided to order those along with the tri tip and the one quarter smoked chicken, which he requested to have white meat.  The meal also came with one side.  There are quite a few sides to choose from, but he wanted to try something unusual, so he ordered the Honey Roasted Peanut Slaw.

I ordered the Smoked Brisket Salad off of the main menu where it’s described as “Smoked and shredded beef brisket with corn salsa, black beans, pico de gallo, roasted pasilla peppers, red onions and tomatoes tossed with crisp greens and our spicy ranch dressing. Topped with tortilla strips, fresh cilantro, diced avocado and our special cilantro sour cream sauce.”  I requested to have the spicy ranch dressing and the sour cream sauce on the side.

Both of our meals came with Homemade Biscuits with apple butter, so Sean brought those out right around the time our appetizers arrived.

Now for the fun part.  What did we think of the food?

I tasted the Fried Green Tomatoes first.  The Happy Hour serving gets you two tomato slices.  I’m not sure how much you get with the regular appetizer.  On first bite, I thought, these are okay but not anything special; however, the more I ate, the more I liked them.  The tomatoes really are green, and the roasted red pepper cream was great.  I really need to learn to make Fried Green Tomatoes.  They’d be a great addition to the menu at my next Mardi Gras party.
The Gumbo came in a descent size bowl.  It was plenty for an appetizer.  It was thicker than the Gumbo I remembered from New Orleans, but to me that’s a benefit.  My husband really liked it and said “it just tastes like Gumbo.”  I thought it tasted burnt.  My husband told me that that’s the roux, but I’ve had Gumbo before, and I didn’t remember it having a burnt taste.  One bite was plenty for me.  

The Homemade Biscuits looked really good, but they tasted more like sugar doughnuts.  No joke.  They actually had sugar on top of them.  The apple butter didn’t look or taste like any apple butter I’d ever had before.  It tasted more like sweet honey butter, and when spread on a sugar doughnut biscuit, it was overwhelmingly sweet.  Now, I’m sure these biscuits would be amazing for breakfast with some jam spread on them, but they were too sweet to be eaten between Fried Green Tomatoes and a salad.  I would’ve preferred some normal dinner rolls, perhaps topped with a little garlic butter.  They should really move these biscuits to the dessert menu.

Sweet Tea seems to be a very southern thing.  I’m from Ohio, and I don’t remember ever having Sweet Tea or even seeing it on a menu.  My husband’s from Texas, and he told me how he remembered his grandfather making homemade Sweet Tea when he was growing up.  He liked his Sweet Tea, but he said he probably wouldn’t get it again because it wasn’t worth the price for tea with a ton of sugar in it.

Shortly after we finished our appetizers, our meals arrived at our table.  Before we dug in, Sean explained the BBQ sauces to us.  There were three BBQ sauces on the table.  The orange one was mustard based, which Sean said was his new favorite.  Then there was Lucille’s original BBQ sauce and a spicy BBQ sauce.  My husband tried all three with the meat on his lunch platter.  He hated the mustard based one, said the original one was very sweet and the spicy one was also very sweet, basically just a spicy version of the original.  He told me not to even bother trying them because they were too sweet for me to like.  I really don’t like sweet BBQ sauce.  I buy Hunts Original to use at home, in case you’re wondering what I consider good BBQ sauce.  I’m not saying Hunts is the best, I’ve had better at a couple other restaurants, but it’s delicious when we make ribs or chicken at home.

All of the meat on the BBQ Lunch Platter was smoked really well.  It was also already coated with BBQ sauce, so it all tasted sweet to me, and I don’t like sweet meat.  I hate pineapple rings on ham too and sweet and sour sauce at Chinese restaurants, so I learned that I don’t like the BBQ at Lucille’s.  However, the chicken was really tender and juicy.  That was my favorite for the three types of meat.  It needed some seasoning though.  At home, I’d add TexJoy.  The ribs were my least favorite.  They weren’t fall-off-the-bone tender, and I just thought they were fatty.  My husband cut off a bite for me to taste, and it was all fat, so he cut off another meatier piece, and there was some meat on it, but there was also a huge chunk of fat.  Realize that this is all just my opinion.  My husband finished the meat on the plate and seemed to enjoy it.  There was a little crock of beef juice on the plate for dipping, but I don’t think he used it.  The meat was juicy enough on its own.  He said he’d probably try something else next time, but he definitely liked it more than I did.  However, he wasn’t crazy about the Honey Roasted Peanut Slaw.  It was basically just some peanuts on top of some cabbage.  I think he was picturing more of a peanut sauce.  He didn’t finish the slaw.

My Smoked Brisket Salad was really big.  I’m a fan of a large salad, but I needed my husband to help me finish it in the end.  They brought the dressing and sour cream sauce on the side as I requested.  For some reason, they also put the fresh cilantro on the side.  I love cilantro, so I dumped that on the salad.  The sour cream sauce didn’t have much flavor, so I didn’t use it.  The dressing, on the other hand, was the best part of the salad; it was amazing!  I did the dip-your-fork-in-the-dressing trick to save on calories, but a little bit per bite was all I needed to get that delicious flavor.  I wasn’t crazy about the brisket.  It tasted kind of sweet to me, like all the meat I’d tasted on my husband’s lunch platter.  Maybe it had a little BBQ sauce on it, or maybe they add sugar to it while it’s being smoked.  Either way, I wouldn’t want to eat a plate of it.  Mixed into the salad, I hardly even tasted it though.  Actually, the salad would’ve been just as good without the meat.  The only other negative about the salad was that a lot of the mixed greens consisted of iceberg lettuce.  I would’ve preferred romaine, spinach or a spring mix.  I liked the salad, but I’d try something else next time.  If I’m in the mood for a really big salad, I’ll just go to The Cheesecake Factory.

We definitely weren’t hungry after our meals, but Sean brought out a dessert menu, so we looked it over.  Sean recommended the Old-Fashined Banana Pudding, which is another item that seems very southern.  It me, it just sounds extremely easy to make at home, so we decided to try Chris' Famous Bread Pudding instead.  I love bread pudding!  It’s described on the menu as “A luscious mixture of sourdough bread, peaches, Southern pecans and sweet custard, baked until golden brown. Served with warm bourbon sauce.”  There’s a regular size and small size.  Since we were already full, we decided just to share the small size.  I was impressed with how big a small serving was.  It was definitely big enough for two people to share after eating a big meal.  The bourbon sauce was too sweet for me.  I thought it tasted like pure sugar.  My husband liked it though and mopped it up with every bite.  He thought it tasted like a caramel sauce with a rum aftertaste.  The aftertaste is probably actually bourbon, but we’re rum drinkers, so to my husband, it tasted like rum.  I avoided the bourbon sauce and dipped my bites in the whipped cream which was really thick and delicious.  The bread pudding itself had a nice mushy, custardy consistency, which I liked.  However, I only tasted one nut, and I didn’t taste the peaches at all.  I later asked my husband if he tasted the peaches, and he was like, “there were supposed to be peaches in it?”  I wouldn’t order it again.  It needed more flavor, maybe some cinnamon or something.  I’ve had much better bread pudding at the buffets in Las Vegas.

In summary, it’s best to arrive between 3pm and 4pm and sit in the bar area so that you can order off of the Happy Hour menu, the lunch menu and the main menu.  The atmosphere is nice and reminds me of New Orleans.  All of the BBQ sauce is really sweet, and a lot of the menu items are overly sweet as well (including the BBQ meat and the biscuits which taste more like sugar doughnuts).  If you love really sweet food, you’ll love this place.  The servings are really big, the staff is friendly, the prices are reasonable, and the menu is huge.  I’d come here again, but I’d order something else, maybe the catfish.

Happy eating!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Veggie Grill

A couple weeks ago, one of my friends mentioned a vegetarian restaurant that she had tried recently called Veggie Grill.  She's not a vegetarian, but she doesn't eat beef or pork.  She was raving about it and even said how much her husband liked it, and I know he enjoys a good steak from time to time.  I'm not a vegetarian either, but I'm definitely not anti-vegetarian and thought that my husband and I would have to eat there sometime.

Then, my husband decided to eat vegan for a week.  We also decided to extend last year's New Year's Resolution to this year - try a new restaurant once a month.  Since it was the last week of January, I knew we needed to eat somewhere new very soon.  I was on Yelp looking up nearby Vegan restaurants, and I came across one in Encino that got great reviews, and I liked what I saw on the menu.  Then I noticed the name, Veggie Grill.  Yup, that just had to be our restaurant to try for January.

On January 31st, (just under the wire for our New Year's Resolution, I know), we went to Veggie Grill for lunch.  The restaurant wasn't very crowded, and there was no line.  We walked up to the counter and looked over the menu.  My husband asked the lady at the register, "Is everything vegan?"  She assured him that it was.  I guess it's pretty good when the menu looks so good that you can hardly believe it can really all be vegan, and many of the menu items are also gluten free.

My husband was immediately drawn to the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' which is described on the menu as "Fried Chickin', lettuce, tomato, red onion, avacado, spicy vegan mayo."  I know, "chickin"?  According to the menu, "chickin'" is "specially seasoned and marinated proteins...made from organic and non-GMO soybeans, wheat and peas."  Each sandwich comes on a whole wheat bun, but if you're gluten free, you can request to have it "Kale style."  Each sandwich also comes with a side item.  The options are coleslaw, chili or Yukon Gold Fries.  He decided to try the chili, which is listed on the menu as Southwestern Chili with Soyrizo and is described as "red and white beans, soy cream, chopped green and red onion."

I had looked at the menu online ahead of time and had already decided on my order before arriving.  I ordered the Papa's Portobello, their portobello mushroom sandwich.  Since I recently made portobello mushroom sandwiches at home (that were awesome!  See my blog post about it here.), I wanted to compare the Veggie Grill version.  The Papa's Portobello is described on the menu as "grilled mushroom, chopped tomato, basil and garlic pomodoro, caramelized onions, cilantro pesto, lettuce, red onion, chipotle ranch."  For my side, I ordered the Yukon Gold Fries which are described on the menu as "skin on, grown in the Northwest."

The lady at the register asked if we wanted to add tea or lemonade to our order, but we decided just to stick with water.  She also mentioned that they provide 1-hr parking validation for the parking lot behind the building.  That's good to know for the future.  We found street parking, but on a weekend it may be necessary to park in the lot.  She gave us a number and 2 glasses for water and said they'd bring out our order.

We picked up our own silverware and napkins while we filled our water glasses.  Then we found an empty booth and settled in.  The restaurant was pretty empty since it was early afternoon on a weekday.  It was a refreshing and clean atmosphere that had a happy vibe to it.  I also liked that there was an abundance of outdoor seating.  If it had been a warmer day, it would've been pleasant to sit under one of the outdoor umbrellas.

Our food was ready pretty quickly.  They brought out my husband's order first, but mine wasn't far behind.

On first impressions, we thought the food looked awesome.  The servings were big, and we definitely needed to cut the sandwiches in half to have a chance of picking them up.  My sandwich was oozing sauce, which made it extra messy to pick up.

Now, the most important part, my review of the food's taste.

I tasted my husband's meal. 
According to Yelp reviews, you'd think you were eating meat if you didn't know any better.  I must disagree.  Those Yelpers must not have eaten at Chick-fil-a recently.  The Chickin' tastes like a block of tofu to me.  I think the texture is the real issue here.  It doesn't have the same texture as chicken, which pulls apart and has individual fibers.  I guess the flavor's okay, but the texture issue needs to be fixed if you're going to fool my palate.  I have a real issue with vegan and vegetarian food where a non-animal product is supposed to taste like meat or cheese or something.  It never works, not if you know what the real thing tastes like.  I'd rather just have a plate full of veggies and grains that are delicious in their own right and not because they're "supposed to" taste like something they're not.  My husband liked the sandwich okay.  He agreed with me about the texture issue, and he'd probably try something else next time.

His side of chili was very heavy on the tomato taste.  It had too many beans and not enough onion.  He wouldn't order that again either.  I'm not a huge fan of beans.  Traditional chili doesn't have beans in it at all.  I'm definitely glad I didn't order the chili.

On to my sandwich.  I had very high hopes for the Papa's Portobello.  I wanted it to be better than what I make at home.  I really, really wanted that.  I was very disappointed.  My first thought was that it needed more seasoning.  There was seasoning on my fries, and a dose of that on the mushroom would've added so much.  About a quarter of the way through the sandwich, I realized a much bigger issue.  The mushroom wasn't cooked long enough and was watery.  My bun was getting soggy.  You have to really cook a mushroom well to get all the water out.  I first learned this when putting mushrooms on a pizza and getting a soggy crust.  If I, an amateur cook and food lover, can learn to cook mushrooms properly, you'd think a vegan restaurant would have it down to a science.  I finished half of my sandwich, and then took apart the second half to inspect it.  The fins hadn't been removed from the mushroom either, which might have been one reason it wasn't fully cooked and was still watery.  Learn to cook your portobello mushrooms, Veggie Grill!  The sauce on the sandwich was the best part.  A little more seasoning and a fully cooked mushroom, and I would've been happy.  Instead, I'll never order it again.  The sandwiches I make at home blow this one away.

The best part of everything we ordered was the Yukon Gold Fries.  They tasted like seasoned fries.  I mean really, they're naturally vegan.  It's a vegetable getting to be a vegetable and show it's own natural taste.  It's not trying to be chicken.  I would order the fries again if I came back.  I just wish the fries were baked instead of deep fried.  Vegan doesn't necessarily equal healthy, at least not if you fill up on fries.

So, would I come back?  Yes, I think so.  I'd give it a second chance with different menu items.  I'd probably try the VG Cheeseburger without the cheese (because I know I'll just be disappointed with soy cheese).  My hope is that the burger is full of grains and veggies that taste like a patty of grains and veggies and aren't trying taste like ground beef.  I used to eat Gardenburgers all the time and loved them.  I would hope that the veggie burgers at a vegan restaurant would taste better than what I can get in the freezer section at the grocery store.  We shall see.

Happy eating!