Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I love cheese!

Beverly Hills Cheese Store
419 N. Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
I can't say that I've been to a lot of cheese stores. I'll buy cheese at Ralph's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Bristol Farms. All of these places have some decent choices, with Whole Foods being the best of this bunch.
It's a completely different beast at the Beverly Hills Cheese Store. Not only do they have an incredible selection of cheese, wine, cured meats, olive oils and spreads, but their staff is incredibly knowledgeable on the different items.
When you first go in, you usually have to wait for someone to become available to help you. When you do get some assistance, you get the sole attention of that person. The salesperson then asks you what you like, and he will then give you samples of as many different things as you'd like to try. I don't know why, but I can't leave there without 5 different cheeses or meats, minimum.
The Beverly Hills Cheese Store is truly an amazing where you can sample some amazing cheeses and meats from around the globe. I learn so much every time I go there, and the service is great. The only time my salesperson takes his attention off of me is to say hello to regulars that steadily stream through the door. Pictured above is what I walked out with last, as a late afternoon snack. We couldn't come close to finishing, but it was a truly remarkable journey for our tastebuds.

Little Next Door

8142 W 3rd St

Los Angeles, CA 90048


There are so many amazing places for breakfast in LA. Some of my favorites include John O'Groats, with their amazing buttermilk biscuits; Amandine, with their freshly baked french breads and croissants; and Urrth Cafe with their amazing chocolate muffin.

Little Next Door is quite a drive from West LA, but I've never had a problem driving out there on a Sunday morning. Going there always reminds me of my time people watching in Paris cafes. I really miss those days, so it's great to come here and have a taste of France. The majority of the waitstaff is French. From speaking with the manager, I learned that many of the ingredients are shipped from France, including the flour used to make their pastries. They serve packaged butter, but they also make their own. The croissants are the best I've had in LA, and the latte is up there, as well.

Pictured above, we have eggs benedict with Spanish ham served with a side salad. Interesting to have salad for breakfast, but it works surprisingly well with the rich hollandaise. We also have house made granola, with house made yogurt. The fruit isn't house made, but fresh. The granola and fruit in the yogurt is truly an amazing sensation to the mouth.

Little Next Door is a great place to come. They always bring little treats to my son, and make us feel welcome. Service can be suspect at times, but overall, they are great. The menu offers different preparations of eggs, sandwiches...including merguez, which is a sausage brought to France from North Africa, and eaten 'in the bad part of' Paris, according to the manager Roman. They also have quiche and a host of other items, and are open for dinner.

Lucky City

These are some of the dishes I had for dinner last night at Lucky City in Monterey Park. It's located at 415 W Garvey Ave, between Garfield and Atlantic. Above is a shrimp chow mein. The noodles are pan fried in oil, so one side is super crispy. It's flipped onto the plate, and topped with a shrimp and chinese broccoli in sauce mixture.

Above we have geoduck clam prepared two ways. The belly is deep friend, and the neck is thinly sliced and sauteed in oil with garlic, soy and other spices. This native of the Northwest tastes so amazing, with the differing textures. By far the best dish of the night.

Above here is a winter melon soup prepared using the melon as a serving bowl. The soup, made with chicken, dried shiitake mushrooms, dried scallops, among other things, is garnished with a little crabmeat. Quite tasty, but more impressive visually.

The three dishes above are calamari, fried and topped with fried chiles; lobster in garlic and green onion sauce; and cod over veggies. All three were prepared perfectly. The calamari was crispy and light. The lobster was sweet and tender. The fish was light and flaky.
For this meal, we had about 9 dishes. Not pictured dishes were a chicken, some pork spareribs, fried tofu and chinese vegetables. My parents and older brother live in Monterey Park, so we've been to a lot of restaurants out there. Lucky City has been in our regular rotation for the past 6 months or so. I have to mention, like many restaurants, they have an issue with consistency. My favorite dish, the geoduck, was horrible the last time we were here. But last night, I couldn't get enough of it. I've been thinking about that dish for 26 hours now.
The menu here is similar to most of the other Chinese seafood restaurants in Monterey Park. To generate business, they have specials, such at buy 1 lb of lobster, and you get one free. I believe the geoduck special is five dollars a pound, but I forget. For geoduck, that's an amazing price, since wholesale of sashimi grade geoduck can run $12 a lb. The food is fresh, and when they're on their game, among the top 10 Chinese seafood restaurants in Monterey Park.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cantaloop now open in Culver City!

3835 Main Street
Culver City, CA 90232

What's the best frozen yogurt in LA? It's kinda tough, since there are so many different new names popping up. I can't even keep up, to be truthful. When Pinkberry started up, I tried it out and really enjoyed the texture and flavors. It was so different than anything that was around, and it was healthy. I moved on to BareNaked at the Century City Mall, then on to a host of other places. Though mostly good, I found myself not liking the product as much anymore from many of these places. Seemed like the quality was going down.

That's why I was so excited to hear that Cantaloop was opening up in Culver City. I first had their yogurt a couple of years ago at their Hollywood location, and was really enamored with their fruit flavored yogurts such at the pomegranate flavored one. Unfortunately, Hollywood is a trek from West LA, so I rarely went back.
I stopped by the new location on Friday, July11th, for their free yogurt giveaway. The lines were long, but the servers were friendly and attentive. You could tell they were quite new to the experience, but they were friendly and courteous, and that goes a long way for me. After I ordered my yogurts, I spoke with the owners and they gave me a little tour. They showed how they used all fresh powders, and explained how the flavors and smooth texture could only be derived by using fresh ingredients. They mixed a batch of the pomegranate-blueberry yogurt for me and walked me through what they did.
I was really impressed with the entire operation. Sure, they're new and they will have some kinks, but the entire package was great. The store was simply decorated, but bright and fun. The service really fit into the Culver City family vibe. The yogurt was creamy and really flavorful and delicious. The prices were not super cheap, but not ridiculous like some places. They offer free wi-fi, as well, so you can surf the net on the Loop while having a little dessert.

Until I find a better place, I would say that Cantaloop is the best frozen yogurt in LA. I'm sure people have different preferences, but at the least, this should tell you that they have quality yogurt that is fresh, and service that leaves a lasting impression. If you don't believe me, believe Hillary. She loved it so much, she tried eating it with her foot.

Monday, July 14, 2008

LA Winefest 2008

The 3rd annual LA Winefest was held this past weekend at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. The two day event, starting on July 12th, was an intriguing collection of booths featuring vineyards, wineries, olive oil makers and a host of other vendors.

I went on Sunday the 13th and luckily was able to procure a ticket at the front. Entrance was $45, and it included all the free pours you could handle. We went along and tasted a wine from almost every stand. Quite honestly, it was nice tasting the different varietals in the beginning. But after a dozen or so, they all started tasting the same. Some interesting highlights included an '01 tempranillo from Spain, grown on vines that were 125 years old; and a champagne made from Pinot Grigio.
The vendors were friendly, the sun was out, and the wine was flowing. Compared to some of the events I've been to recently, this one stood out. The Long Beach Sushi and Sake festival, held a few months ago, was embarrassing. Their were more taco trucks than sushi stands(there were two taco trucks). This event, however, lived up to its name...and then some.