Category Archives: food

TYOLD Day 100(!): Food Frenzy

To celebrate my 100th day of Differently, I decided to to go all in on a food frenzy.

I started with a little restaurant not far from work called Boulevard Burgers.  I had been by it a million times but never stopped and so today I did.  Weird little place run by incredibly unhappy people, but the bacon cheeseburger was darned good.  Not the best I have ever tasted but certainly better than most – good grilled flavor, fantastic bacon.  I was happy (once I didn’t have to deal with the people serving the food).

burger

 

The for dinner, me and my friend Maureen decided to do “Old Hollywood” with a visit to Musso & Franks.  This is a classic LA eatery that has been in business since 1919 (!!).  Located on Hollywood Boulevard, it has been a legendary hangout for movie stars and famous writers from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Raymond Chandler.  It has that classic old-school vibe, with worn leather booths, a staff that is almost as old as the restaurant (and very formal about everything), and a weirdly fun Hollywood atmosphere.

And we even got a celebrity sighting out of it… Penn, the tall talkative half of magic duo Penn & Teller… was having dinner with a big, boisterous group nearby.

I had classic onion soup, a filet, a baked potato, and their amazing garlic bread and although, as usual, I couldn’t eat very much of anything, everything was fantastic.  The dessert was sick – the Musso & Frank Torten, which is basically a pastry-like cake shaped thing made out of whipped cream and strawberries.  Insane.

All in all, a very “filling” 100th day.

mussoandfrank

TYOLD Day 89: Block Party

My new favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, Warren’s Blackboard, had a “block party” today, where they basically converted the front drive of the Beverly Garland Hotel into a party space and had wine, craft beers, and a several of Chef Warren’s specialties to taste – with the chef himself tending the grill.  A couple of yummy salads, slices of that amazing pork chop that I raved about, beef short ribs, and an incredible spicy sausage on a pretzel roll.  That and some really good wine from a Malibu vineyard and the beautiful weather and really good company with my friend Maureen… what a great day!

warren

TYOLD Day 86: Disappointment, Thy Name is Cupcake

I was craving a cupcake today.  Okay, I crave cupcakes all the time, but I don’t always do anything about it.  Part of it is because I know if I had a cupcake every time I wanted a cupcake I’d weigh roughly the equivalent of a compact Japanese car, but beyond that I have to admit I’m a bit of a cupcake snob – it takes a lot to impress me – and so not just an old cupcake will do.

I have two favorite cupcake places, one here in LA and one in Vegas.  The LA one is Yummy Cupcakes, which started in Burbank but now has locations in Brentwood, San Diego, Pasadena, Michigan, and Istanbul.  Wait… what?  Huh… just looked at their website and yes, they have locations in Turkey, Qatar, and coming soon to Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Italy, Japan, the UK, and France.  Well, if anything could spread peace around the world it would be these cupcakes.

The other really good one is The Cupcakery, in Las Vegas.

Everywhere else I have tried – and I have tried a lot of them – has not measured up.

And therein lies the title of my posting tonight.  I decided to try a new cupcake place but I’m inherently lazy so I needed it to be somewhere more or less on my way home.  I found a store called Velvet Cupcakes, which is at the Westfield Fashion Square mall in Sherman Oaks.  This should’ve been my first clue that it wasn’t going to be good – nothing good comes out of malls.  This is a particularly obnoxious one that I think I have been in maybe twice in the entire 30 years I have lived here and I live about 4 miles from it.  Horrible parking, boring stores, always crowded, blah.

So Velvet Cupcakes is a little store near the food court and they have a display case with about 7 flavors, all boring – chocolate, vanilla, vanilla-chocolate (black and white), red velvet, mocha, coconut, and something else that I can’t remember.  I got a chocolate and a black and white.

Beyond disappointing… I’m actually not going to finish the one I started.  And this is not a big cupcake (despite the $3.25 cost).   The cake is dry and has a funny taste to it – almost like weak bacon, which is weird on a variety of levels.  Not enough frosting and what there is is bland.

Guess I’m going to have to jump on a plane to Abu Dhabi this weekend.

cupcake

TYOLD Day 61: Rick’s Mom’s Chili Cheese Dip

There’s this stuff that I make for parties that is known affectionately as Rick’s Mom’s Chili Cheese Dip.  My mother made it for parties when I was a kid and I adopted it as an adult and put my own spin on it.

Originally it required a can of chili (no beans), a big chunk of jalapeno Velveeta cheese, and French fried onion rings.  Finding that flavor of Velveeta is challenging so I switched it to salsa con queso, which is basically the same thing, only less solid.

You do a 2-to-1 ratio of chili to cheese – for a moderate amount of people, use 2 cans of chili, 1 jar of con queso, and then a small container of the French fried onion rings (which you can usually find near the canned vegetables or instant potatoes).  Throw it all in a bowl, stir it up good, nuke it for a few minutes, and boom, ya got’s party dip.  You can use any flavor/style chip you want but I recommend the classic Nacho Cheese Doritos.

I know it sounds disgusting, but it is so good that it is usually completely devoured – it will be the hit of the party.

The differently portion of this for these purposes is that today I made the heavenly stuff in Las Vegas for the Oscar party in the swank suite.   Yep, Rick’s Mom’s Chili Cheese Dip has crossed state lines.dip01 dip02 dip03

TYOLD Day 39: The NoHo Farmer’s Market

Every Saturday for years now there’s a little farmer’s market that happens in North Hollywood, about a mile up the street from me.  I went for the first time today.

It’s cute – small (only about a block long) and therefore manageable with some funky details. There was a sitar player at one end, a live band at the other, and a giant bouncy castle for no apparent reason.

Lots of vegetables and fruit, plus nuts, organic juices, hummus, jewelry, clothing, art, and more.   I bought a carton of the most gorgeous strawberries; an organic juice of strawberries, pineapple, and bananas; a sweet jalapeno salsa and a potato bolani (a vegan flatbread with stuffing), and a mini-chocolate cake.  Very pleased.

market

TYOLD Day 35: We Both Like… Soup

Today, February 4, is National Homemade Soup Day.  I don’t know who decides such things but they did and so it was declared and so it shall be.

My idea of making soup is opening a can, pouring into a bowl, and then microwaving that sucker until it’s hot.  But this is The Year of Living Differently and so I, now, have officially made soup.  And not only did I make soup, I made my own soup.

I went online and looked up a couple of soup recipes but none of them were moving me.  I wanted something easy and definitely in the comfort food category so I just sort of made it up as I went along.

I stated with ground beef, which I sauteed in garlic, butter, and onions (which is how I start pretty much everything I cook).  I added some spices and seasonings – salt, black pepper, basil leaves, oregano, more garlic, a tiny bit of paprika, and just a hint of red pepper.  You will note that all of these were included because I had them in my cabinet.

Next I added more onions, carrots, and potatoes into the ground beef and cooked that all up, making sure the beef was brown and the potatoes and carrots were relatively tender.  It looked like this:

soup1

In a bigger pot, I put stewed tomatoes (canned, sorry) and a can of corn and then I added the beef mixture (after draining the fat).  Then I added water, tomato juice, and more seasonings.  Brought that sucker to a boil. covered it, and then let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

This is not ground breaking soup and will not win me any awards, but it’s pretty darned good if I do say so myself.

soup2

Of course now I have enough soup to feed a small army so if you’re hungry, ring me up.

Happy National Homemade Soup Day, everybody!

 

TYOLD Day 32: Food Porn, Famous People, and Face Pleasing

I have three great Differentlies today – one involving a fantastic new restaurant, another involving a famous person, and the third involving what I did to my face.  Hmmm, which to start with….

If you live in Los Angeles you must drop whatever you are doing and run, do not walk, to Warren’s Blackboard, a new “pop-up” restaurant concept at the Beverly Garland Hotel on Vineland in North Hollywood.  I know…. a North Hollywood hotel restaurant… how good could it be?  Unbelievably good.

It’s headed by Warren Schwartz, who has a resume that includes sous chef at Patina under Joachim Spichal and executive chef at Saddle Peak Lodge, Westside Tavern, and the Viceroy Hotel.  Here, he’s playing; experimenting with different dishes as a “workshop” for the full restaurant that he will be opening in the space in May.  All the ingredients are locally sourced and sustainable, so you get crazy fresh.

I had the I went with the ever lovely Maureen B. and we both agree that it is a truly special place.  We started with the White Boy Fried Rice, which was recommended to us by Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family.”

I’ll come back to that.

Anyway, it’s basically fried rice with broccoli and Spam – genius and stupid good.  Maureen had the salmon with baby sweet potatoes and tangerine and I had the pork chop, with apple slaw and creamy polenta.  I have whined often and vociferously about my food issues but this was so good I ate more of this than I have of just about anything since they chopped out a big chunk of my stomach.

Seriously, y’all, go check this place out.

Backing up a bit, we arrived at the valet and I glanced up at the couple waiting for their car and noticed that the guy was Eric Stonestreet, the Emmy-Award winning actor who plays Cam on “Modern Family.”  I rarely bother famous people when I see them – to be honest, I rarely recognize them – and in this instance didn’t intend to but then the woman with him called out, “Rick?!”  It was the lovely and talented Erin, who I used to work with at Disney.  She apparently had just seen this very blog on her Facebook feed recently and Eric knows someone who knows Maureen and so it’s this weird tiny little world and I met Eric Stonestreet and he told us to try the White Boy Fried Rice and we did and it was really good.

Backing up even more we get to the face pleasing, which was my originally intended Differently for the day.

This came about because I’m getting old.  For the most part I’m accepting of that – the loss of hair on my head, the gain of hair in my ears, and the fact that most of it is gray or snow white.  I’m okay with the wrinkles, too – I’ve decided they make me look distinguished.

What I’m not okay with is the puffy, saggy, grossness that is under my eyes.  It’s sort of a loose skin kind of thing that, to my extremely judgmental eyes, makes me look about 10 years older than I actually am.  Some of it comes from age, some of it is hereditary (my mother has a similar thing going on, but she’s almost 80), and some of it has to do with all that weight I lost during the cancer hooha.

I’m actually looking into Botox or similar but for now I decided to make myself at least feel better by doing something I had never done… getting a facial.  I know, I know… how is it possible that I have never had a facial?  Well, it’s true.  Until today.

My delightful friend Fred (he makes me say that) manages Monique’s Salon and Spa in Tarzana and so I went there to get my face pleased.

My facilist (tm Rick Garman) Lori did a great job (she was very patient with me and my “what are you doing to my face?” type of questions) and and the facility is lovely (if I had hair, this is where I’d get it done).  So my overall reaction to the facial has nothing to do with them it has to do with the fact that I’m an OCD, crazy person who can’t ever relax and doesn’t have the patience god gave a rhinoceros.

I don’t like people touching my face, which probably should’ve been something I considered before I went to get a facial.  It seemed like a good idea at the moment.

And I know I’m supposed to relax and enjoy it but I’m way too much of a control freak and have a brain that resists shutting off at all costs, so I pretty much laid there and stressed out the entire time thinking about all the other stuff I needed to get done.  And I did it while listening to that f-ing spa music – which again, if you’re going to spa you should expect – but it makes me want to hurt someone.

And of course I still have ugly bags under my eyes.  I think it is completely reasonable that I expected to walk out of their looking 20 years younger, don’t you?  Oh, just humor me.

Like I said, I’m an idiot, but that’s the thing about Living Differently… sometimes it works out and you might find a fantastic new restaurant, sometimes it is random and you might meet a famous person, and sometimes people touch your face.

No, this is not my autopsy photo.  I'm getting a facial, damn it!

No, this is not my autopsy photo. I’m getting a facial, damn it!

 

TYOLD Day 19: Misadventures in Baking

I wanted something sweet.  I always want something sweet, but that’s beside the point.  What matters here is that I wanted something sweet but wanted to try something different so I experimented with brownie baking.

I took some regular brownie mix (I know – leave me alone – I don’t have time to do scratch) and added random stuff I had in my refrigerator or cabinets.  What I wound up with is mini-brownies with some “extras”:

  • mint chocolate Hershey’s kisses
  • strawberry preserves
  • raspberry preserves
  • maple syrup
  • cookies & cream Hershey’s “drops”
  • triple sec

The preserves ones kind of exploded while they were baking.  Okay, exploded is too strong of a word, but they basically expelled the preserves onto the pan and then, in turn, the bottom of the oven.  That’ll be fun to clean.  If I ever cleaned my oven, that is.  (leave me alone, again).

The ones with candy stuffed inside didn’t explode but instead turned into something approaching bricks.  I’m pretty sure that if I baked a few million more of them, I could build a house.

Mmmmmm, brownie house…. (drool, drool).

Okay, I’m back.

The triple sec and syrup ones came out the most like a normal brownie but as far as taste… well… let’s just say that I won’t be winning any epicurean awards anytime soon.

And the answer to the inevitable question is, of course I’m still going to them eat them all. What are you?  Crazy?

brownies

 

TYOLD Day 9: Say Cheese(cake)

As I have whined about in past posts and endlessly in my day-to-day life, food continues to be a challenge for me.  I often don’t feel like eating and when I do it often makes me feel lousy.  Nausea and other unpleasantness are frequent companions.

The good news is that I can eat pretty much whatever I want and I’m not gaining weight, mostly because I can’t eat very much of anything and what’s left of my stomach isn’t processing food the way it should be.

Today I was feeling pretty good and decided that my TYOLD item would be something new to eat.  I sort of randomly started Googling stuff in my neighborhood and stumbled upon the Pacific Cheesecake Company.

This is their mission statement: Our business if founded on the belief that using the best ingredients results in the best products.  Most of our ingredients are homemade including caramel, fudge, custard and more.

Okay, I’m in.

It’s a tiny little shop in a busy mini-mall next to the Jack in the Box in North Hollywood (4820 Laurel Canyon Blvd. for the record).   There are two bits of genius here.  First, while they do full-size cakes, they specialize in individual serving portions – sort of like a cupcake cheesecake.  Second, all they do is cheesecake but they do EVERY CHEESECAKE IN THE WORLD.  Seriously, this is just a sampling of their menu:  Banana, Banana Foster, Blueberry, Boston Cream, Butterfinger, Caramel Apple, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Chip Raspberry, Chocolate Covered Marshmallow, Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Espresso Chocolate Chip, Green Tea, Happy Birthday, Lemon Pie, Limoncello, Orangesicle Chocolate Chip, Run Raisin, S’mores, Snickers, Sweet Potato, White Chocolate Caramel Cappuccino, Neapolitan, White Chocolate Pecan Pie… the menu has about 100 different options and that’s not everything they offer (there were things in the case that weren’t on the menu) and all of that is before you make it to the seasonal (eggnog, pumpkin), the no sugar added, the gluten free, and the savory (everything from bleu cheese to white cheddar sweet balsamic reduction).  They usually have about 25-30 different kinds rotating through the store on any given day and if you give them notice, they’ll make sure they have what you want in stock.

Don’t see something you like?  That’s cool… they’ll make it for you.  No, really… if you have a flavor that they don’t offer and it can be made into a cheesecake, they’ll do it just for you.

I got four and have had a bite of each to sample… the dark chocolate raspberry was the clear winner, a perfect combination of flavors; the maple bacon was like breakfast in cheesecake form and the bacon was surprisingly savory; the toasted marshmallow had mini marshmallows on top and a big marshmallow baked inside(!!) and was delicious; and the chocolate salted caramel was good, but not fantastic.  Granted it was the last one I tried so perhaps my taste buds have revolted.  When I go back to try again, I will start with that one and see what I come up with.

So yeah, suck it cupcakes… screw you cronut… mini cheesecakes are my new god!

For more information, visit pacificcheesecake.com or on Facebook where they list the flavors available each day.

Top left: Maple Bacon Top right: Chocolate Salted Caramel Bottom left: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Bottom right: Toasted Marshmallow

Top left: Maple Bacon
Top right: Chocolate Salted Caramel
Bottom left: Dark Chocolate Raspberry
Bottom right: Toasted Marshmallow