So here’s the strategy before you go to MB Post in Manhattan Beach, California, do not eat the day before. It’s comfort food extraordinaire, just liked you mama would have made if she’d been a world-class chef.
My husband and I were invited down to Manhattan Beach for Sunday brunch with our good friends L & L. “L” (the husband from the team of L & L) is quite the culinary explorer. He introduces us to many of the tasty and interesting restaurants the city has to offer that we may not have otherwise found on our own. They had been to MB Post for brunch before, and they thought we would enjoy the experience also.
It was tough to get a reservation, but we were able to get a table at 10am when they opened their doors. By 9:45 there was a line half-way around the block so I knew sumthin’ was up. By 10:15 every seat in the joint was filled. Our server, a totally laid back “dude”, told us they served small plates and that each person may want to order 2 dishes each. With all due respect to the dude, no way could anybody eat two dishes a piece. The dishes are saucy, cheesy, sweet and decadent. But man, they taste good. The Pecan & Brown Sugar Sticky Bun ($6) which luxuriates in it’s own sauce, was enough for all of us to split. We followed that up with the house-made Ricotta Stuffed French Toast ($12).
The house-made Trout Lox with Dill Cream Cheese, Capers and Cucumbers ($12) was a perfect counterpoint to the previous two dishes. Just the right amount of saltiness to bring me down from the sugar high. Another excellent dish was the Poached Egg with Tomato & White Bean Ragout and Creamy Polenta ($13) but it was large enough to serve a family of four and their pet chihuahua.
The interior of MB Post is warm and welcoming just like its food. A little industrial, rustic and casual with lots of rough hewn wood throughout the restaurant, which is really quite perfect for this mellowed-out little California beach town.
And here’s the best part of all, after you’ve consumed enough calories for the next three weeks, you can go walk it off at the Manhattan Beach Pier which is about a half block away.
Manhattan Beach Post – 1142 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 (310) 545-5405
Having lived in Los Angeles for 33 years, I’m only now beginning to discover the rich history and diverse culture that the city has to offer. Downtown LA’s Grand Central Market puts you on sensory overload. The market, which has been in continuous operation since 1917, is 30,000 square feet of high energy sights, sounds, and smells (and I mean that in a good way) as well as a multi-cultural clientele. It’s got a little something for everybody. The marketplace offers fresh produce booths, gourmet coffee, juices and cheese, bakeries, as well as authentic style Mexican and Chinese restaurants, just to name a few.
The marketplace has a large multi-story parking lot attached to it, so it made accessing the whole downtown experience convenient and enjoyable. The first hour of parking was free with validation, so your afternoon outing doesn’t have to break the bank.
Accompanying me on this adventure was my partner-in-culinary crime, Gail. By 1pm it was time to make the decision where to sit down and eat because that was certainly the focus of this foray. Looking over the list of restaurants in the market, we both looked at each other and simultaneously said “Egg Slut of course”! Why, because I am an egg slut. I love them fried, poached, deviled and scrambled, and I’m a firm believer everything is better with an egg on it. Little did we know how deliciously nasty Egg Slut would be!
I ordered the Avo Burger, a 1/3 pound hamburger patty on a house-made brioche bun that’s toasted to perfection. They add cheddar, fresh avocado, caramelized onions, and, wait for it, yes an organic fried egg. I tried to look lady-like as I ate this, I just hope no one was looking. Gail had the Fairfax, which was soft-scrambled eggs with caramelized onions, cheddar, chives and Sriracha mayo on the homiest of biscuits.
However, after lunch it seemed our downtown Los Angeles history lesson was still not over. Directly across the street from the Grand Central Market is the Angel’s Flight Railway. Built in 1901, it’s called “the world’s shortest railway at only 298 feet. Costing only 50 cents to ride, it connects Hill Street with Grand, and was an iconic ending to the perfect day.
Grand Central Market – 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles CA 90013 (213) 624-2378
Each year, I live for that two month period that begins with Halloween and sees me through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I’m totally grateful that it’s filled with family, fun and way, I mean way too much food. It’s a whirlwind of turkeys, hams, cookies, cakes and lots and lots of sugar. In fact, I think I need to detox from all the sugar still in my system.
But alas, it’s January 6th and the party’s over. The east coast friends have all gone home, the kid’s back at school and Mama is left jonesing for her next gig. Just business as usual. And so, I set my sights on Super Bowl Sunday.
The truth is, I don’t even like football, (did I just hear a gasp from all over America). But I love all the commercials, and who doesn’t love a good ‘ol half-time show. Ok, so just me. I know it’s a little far in advance, but I’ve already started planning my menu for game day. For dessert, I decided to serve these Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters. Their taste scores a touchdown, but their small size won’t hit ‘ya in the end zone if you know what I mean. I know, lame football humor…
Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooters
- 2 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean – split down center
- 5 large egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons baker’s sugar (superfine)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 6 teaspoons corn starch
- 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
- 1 medium ripe banana
- 1 medium banana
- 5 graham crackers
- 1/3 cup almonds (blanched or sliced, optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Extra almonds for garnish
- In a medium size pot over medium heat warm the milk and the vanilla bean just until boiling. Just as it reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and the sugar on medium speed until it becomes pale and thick. Reduce the mixer to low and stir in the flour and cornstarch, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides periodically. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, and slowly stir the milk into the egg/flour mixture.
- Pour this mixture back into your pot and heat gently over a medium heat. Using a wire whisk (if you don’t have one, a wooden spoon will work also), continuously whisk the mixture until it thickens and comes to a boil. Boil for one minute and keep on whisking so that lumps do not form and the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk for a minute or two then pour the mixture into a large bowl to cool. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap so that a skin doesn’t form.
- You can make this pastry cream a day in advance and keep it covered in the refrigerator.
- When you’re ready to use the pastry cream, take the ripe banana and with a fork or the back of a spoon, mash the banana until it’s almost like a puree. Then whisk it into the pastry cream. If you choose to use the coconut, whisk it into the pastry cream.
- Place the graham crackers and almonds in a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs, transfer to bowl and set aside.
- In a medium bowl beat (either with a stand mixer with whisk attachment, hand mixer or wire whisk) the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. You can make the whipped cream in advance too, just cover and keep in the fridge a day in advance.
- To assemble the shooters: Place two teaspoons of the crumbs into the bottom of the shot glass. Slice the remaining banana into 1/2″ slices, and place the banana on top of the crumbs. You can spoon the pastry cream into the shot glass or you can pipe it in with a pastry bag. Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, pipe the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream layer. Garnish with sliced almonds, sliced bananas or toasted coconut.
Makes 10 shooters (approximately 2.5 ounces each)
The pastry cream can be made a day in advance. When the cream has cooled, cover the surface with plastic wrap so a skin will not form and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
The whipped cream can be made in advance also. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form and then transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
The graham cracker crumbs can be made a day in advance. Just store in a covered container until ready to use.
I add the nuts to the graham crackers because it gives the crumbs some added texture which is a nice compliment to the banana cream. However, if you or someone else has a nut allergy then just eliminate them from the recipe.
When I got up this morning I was actually planning to do another blog posting about cookies. I know what you’re thinking, Mama, enough with the cookies already. It is an uncharacteristically cold and gloomy day here, yes, 55 degrees is cold, so I decided to re-think my strategy. I thought I should choose to make something for my posting that I could also serve to the family for dinner tonight. Ah yes, therefore killing two birds with one stone.
Due to the aforementioned gloominess, I decided that my family would probably appreciate some good ‘ol comfort food. I don’t know about you, but grilled cheese and tomato soup is about as cozy as you can get. I rarely get a reaction from the husband and kids regarding my cooking, but the Roasted Tomato Soup got rave reviews.
It’s just a suggestion, but if you’re having a get-together for New Year’s, how about Roasted Tomato Soup Shots with a dollop of creme fraiche, or for a New Year’s brunch you can serve the soup in mason jars with a mini grilled cheese sandwich. And the best part is you can make the soup in advance, because it will actually taste better the next day.
Roasted Tomato Soup
- 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (I used tomatoes on the vine)
- 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cans (28 oz) San Marzano Tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 cup chicken stock
- Garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream, yogurt or mascarpone (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F, and place rack in the lower third of oven. Wash and dry tomatoes, and then cut them in half. Using your fingers, gently squeeze out the seeds. Place the tomatoes and garlic in a large bowl and drizzle with the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and toss it all together with your hands. Spread the tomatoes out on a large baking sheet cut side up. Place the garlic pieces in the tomato cavity (I don’t know what else to call it) as shown in the above photo. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until tomatoes begin to caramelize. Yum, now we’re creating great flavor! Then set aside to cool.
- Now, strain the juice into a measuring cup or bowl, from the 2 cans of tomatoes and reserve for later. You should have about 1 cup of liquid from the cans. Next, puree the canned tomatoes, the roasted tomatoes and garlic in batches in a blender and place in a large bowl.
- In a large stock pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter, then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 medium, diced onion. Sweat the onion for about 5 minutes until it becomes translucent. Add 1/4 cup of flour and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and quickly whisk or stir with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Add all the pureed tomato and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, the bay leaf, cumin, rosemary spring, thyme sprigs, reserved juice and 1 cup of chicken broth. Whisk to make sure no flour has stuck to the bottom. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring in 15 minute intervals. Remove the rosemary and thyme sprigs. After it simmered, I used an immersion blender to blend the onion into the soup. If you don’t have one, you could run it through the blender again. You should let the soup cool a bit before you so though, because hot liquids spurt out of the blender. Cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel.
- I ran the soup through a sieve to remove any seeds and tomato skin and ended up with a smooth, silky soup. I returned the soup to the stock pot to warm before serving.
- I like to serve the soup with a little dollop of creme fraiche for a little added creaminess.
Makes about 8 cups of soup
You can store the soup in a sealed container. It’s actually better the next day after all the flavors meld together. Just gently reheat to serve.
If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, you can substitute the chicken broth with vegetable broth or water.
To add extra creaminess to the soup, you can garnish it with creme fraiche, sour cream, yogurt or mascarpone.
If your soup comes out too thick, then just thin it with a little extra broth or water. But remember, add just a little at a time to achieve your desired consistency.
Connie & Ted’s is not your mama’s crab shack, but a wicked awesome experience that combines fresh, high quality seafood expertly prepared, efficient and friendly service and stunning architecture. Everything is so well thought out, even right down to the little sugar containers. My friend Gail and I had been assisting a friend on a catering job and hadn’t had a chance to eat that day. As we were heading home down Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of West Hollywood we could feel Connie and Ted just calling out to us. The facade of the restaurant resembles the hull of a ship (at least that what it looks like to me) and there’s creative nautical touches everywhere. Yet the space is open, modern and very inviting.
When we were presented with the menu, we literally couldn’t make a choice because everything looked so darn good. We could see the servers whizzing by with large plates of fresh oysters, clams and uni. They serve three kinds of chowda’, crispy fish & chips, steamers, and, if you really don’t like fish (shame on you) they have the Hook Burger, with or without bacon.
This is the perfect place to go with a group, that way everyone can order something different and you can share. However, it was just me and Gail so the pressure was on to pick something. The Lobster Roll ($24) seemed like the obvious choice. It’s served hot or cold, with butter or mayo. Pure and simple, just sweet, fresh lobster, a little mayo and the perfectly toasted bun. The massive side of fries were pretty amazing too. We also split Nancy’s Peeky Toe Crab Cake ($14). For sheer perfection, one must get the correct proportions of crab cake, tartar sauce and coleslaw all on the fork at once.
They offered a great selection of desserts, but we were struck by the Cornmeal & Molasses Indian Pudding. Because we had never heard of it before, we decided to order that. I can only liken it to sitting in front of a fire with big, fuzzy slippers on, on a cold winter’s day. It’s warm and cozy, and yes, just downright wicked awesome. That dessert, and Lamills coffee sealed the deal. I’m going back.
They’ve got a very lively bar scene there, and a large outdoor patio. I imagine it’s perfect for weekend brunches with a group of friends, or for just watching the traffic go by on Santa Monica Boulevard. Connie & Ted’s has their own valet parking lot on the premises. It is $7.00 but then inner city parking does come at a price.
Connie & Ted’s 8171 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046 (323) 848-2722
I suppose food is my hobby, and, a hobby that I’m quite passionate about. I love everything about food. I love to make it, photograph it, write about it, talk endlessly about it, meet chefs, talks to chefs, and to travel far and wide to find the best products and dishes a gal can eat. If someone told me they had found the best ice cream, pizza or sushi, then I make it my mission to search out that place and see for my self what the brouhaha is all about.
Recently I turned to my friend Gail, as we were out on one of our weekly culinary re-con missions, and asked her, “are you willing to drive over an hour for what I hear is incredible bread and some seriously good coffee?” She quickly gave me the thumbs up. So, off we went, barreling down the 101 freeway headed towards downtown Los Angeles through some pretty gnarly traffic; which we call just an average day here in the City of Angels. I had heard from some of my carbohydrately obsessed friends that there was a bakery/cafe on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles that baked some of the best breads and pastries this side of the LA River. My, but I was intrigued. As we drove, my small car sandwiched in between semi’s and eighteen wheelers making so much racket that we couldn’t even communicate with each other, we wondered if we were both out of our minds to continue this quest. But continue we did.
Bread Lounge is located in the “Arts” district in downtown Los Angeles. The super good news is that there’s a free parking lot located in the back of the restaurant. The restaurant is small and somewhat industrial looking, yet it still has a warm ambience to it, which was probably due to the lively youthful crowd that was spilling out the door and down the street. I guess the word has gotten out about their amazing goodies. I am told that owner/baker Ran Zimon learned his craft in Israeli bakeries. As Gail and I stood in line waiting to order, we grabbed jars of homemade preserves with flavors like Peach-Mango-Passionfruit and packages of boxed cookies ready to go. For a small joint, the selection was pretty vast. They offer fresh made salads, paninis, and sandwiches made on the most awesome of baguettes and breads. I ordered the Smoked Salmon Sandwich and the Roasted Beet Salad with Chicken, both excellent choices.
But the best was yet to come. Gail and I ordered a cross-section of The Bread Lounge’s flakey pastries such as their custard filled timbale, chocolate croissant and pain au raisin. I guess what I’m telling you is, if you’re as obsessed with authentic French-style pastry as I am, then you must make the trek to the Bread Lounge.
The Bread Lounge – 700 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90021
But what good is pastry without a good cup of coffee, am I right? Recently I had dinner at a restaurant called Red Medicine. I usually find restaurant coffee overly bitter or just plain watered-down, but the coffee they served tasted just like, well, coffee. Imagine that. Really, what’s a girl gotta do to get a good cup of joe in this town. I was told the brand they serve was called Handsome Coffee Roasters. Okay, so now I had to figure out how to get my hands on a bag of these beans. After doing a little research I discovered that their coffee roasting facility was in downtown Los Angeles and just a few blocks from Bread Lounge. Yay, must be karma. Good bread and good coffee in one easy downtown location!
As Gail and I made our way to the entry of Handsome Coffee Roasters we had to fight our way through lights, cameras and dozens of “extras” dressed in winter clothing although it was 85 degrees in Los Angeles. Only in LA. The facility was closed because they were filming an episode of ABC’s Castle that day. We would not be deterred. After some cajoling, and a lot of tears, the manager told us to go around to the alley and he would sell us some coffee. It was actually kind of cool because they allowed us to see all the behind-the-scenes equipment and just how the coffee is roasted.
So, happily we scored ourselves of couple of bags of coffee and we were on our way. Now I can enjoy a great cup of Handsome coffee each day in the privacy of my own home. So, for those of you who don’t live in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, just go to your computer and order online.
Handsome Coffee Roasters – 582 Mateo Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013